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Power to match REH's compelling storytelling - 96%

Nahsil, February 17th, 2008

Ex-Morgion members Justin Christian and Rhett Davis have outdone themselves. Morgion were one of the most organic and atmospheric doom/death outfits around (while retaining the crushing heaviness that the genre is known for), and their breakup was a tragic loss for doom/death fans. The news of Keen's split is equally unfortunate, but they did leave us with something to remember them by, and it happens to be one of the best albums in metal.

Riffs are the name of the game; riffs and sensational vocals. Leif Edling's guitar melodies were never this good, coming from a Candlemass zealot. The first indication that Keen of the Crow aren't fucking around comes three minute into 'Where Dead Kings Lie'. If you have a head, it will bang. The whole song is a testament to musical genius, of which KotC's cup runneth over. The vocals are absolutely among the best of the best, be it throaty death growls or shrieks that reach higher in register, or melodic clean singing, which rears its head a few times throughout the album -- a good thing, because Keen are not Killswitch Engage, and the singing of Dan Ochoa gets all my support. To use a boxing/mixed martial arts analogy, the vocallist "leaves everything in the ring". Dan Ochoa gives it his all, and his all is impressive. Much of the power and emotion driving this album is the result of a singer who excels at every line.

"Emptiness,
of that I know
...
Emptiness,
of that I am"

Morgion were masters of dynamics, effectively utilizing levels of subtle softness and explosive extremes. Keen of the Crow improve upon that formula. There are four interludes including the intro and outro. The two 'real' interludes separate some of the album's most epic tracks, giving the listener time to rest and setting the stage for Hyborea's longer tracks. That said, there's nothing tedious or tiring about the 9 minute 'Where Dead Kings Lie' or 8 minute 'To Reach Emptiness'; they don't need interludes. Every track is distinct and introduces its own elements; KotC don't plagiarize themselves much (things can get fuzzy when the songs 'Burning Away...' and 'Valeria' come into play, but never skip-worthy), even though they have several acoustic bits and don't stray far from their formula of heavy-soft-heavy-soft.

Riffs make the album, simple as that. Most songs have driving guitar melodies that fit the intended atmosphere, such as the desperate and longing cry of 'To Reach Emptiness' and the neck-wrecking 'Seeking Fury, Becoming Wrath'.

"I have come, to burn your temples
...
I have risen, to claim my vengeaaaance,
seeking fury, becoming wraaaaaaaaath"

Hyborea, for fans of Conan the Cimmerian and doom/death, like myself, is a dream realized.