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Incredible Doomy Fantasy! - 96%

KC_Slaanesh, November 19th, 2009

This is a very unique take on folk metal, if you want to classify it as such. Really I view this as more of a doom album, with lots of death and folk elements. The tone of Gondolyn is very somber and reflective, and the vocalist Amrod (I guess he’s actually the whole band) reminds me a lot of the dude from Paradise Lost. It’s 45 minutes of sadness and longing, and is very enjoyable once you get accustomed to the flute/pipe/whatever the fuck is going on in the background.

Things start off pretty heavy with “Shylob“, and don’t be surprised when this album reverts back to the death metal sound on other tracks like “Valynor”. However, Amrod does not maintain the death-like intensity for entire songs, and no matter how heavy and fast a track starts, it will slow down to a more sad and doomy tempo by the end. I think the death metal elements are there to create a feeling of struggle, as Amrod probably felt that simply sounding sad for no reason did not do justice to Tolkien’s stories. Oh yeah, by the way, this is a Tolkien-themed band and that’s all they sing about, if you hadn’t noticed. Contrasting the heavier songs are tracks like “Ithylien”, a very morose and depressing ode to lost friends and good times long gone.

Vocally, I really dig Amrod’s style. Being partial to folk metal, I thoroughly enjoy the chant-like vocals that pervade Gondolyn. He’s actually got a very resonant and deep voice for chanting, maybe he used to be in a cult or something. The layered vocals on “Lothloryen” are amazing, and capture the elven feeling of melancholy and loss as well as any human voice could. I also really like how Amrod enunciates the strange proper nouns from Tolkien’s books, he sounds as good doing it as anyone from the films.

Instrumentally, the guitars are very competent, though buried a bit in the production. Normally this would upset me, but this album is not about riffs and solos. Actually, there are no solos. Really I think that Amrod wanted to create an epic fantasy-themed album first, and a metal album second. There is a very military feel to the riffs on some songs, adding to the atmosphere of high fantasy, because who the fuck reads high fantasy with no battle scenes? I’m sure there was a bass guitar in there somewhere too, I’m not very good at picking that out. The drums are nothing special either, typical death-style drumming on the fast parts, nice subdued percussion on the slower parts.

A word on the pipe accompaniments: you will either love them or hate them. Some people I’ve played this for simply could not get past them to enjoy the rest of the music. They probably do not sound like folk instruments you are used to hearing in metal, but I like that Amrod tried to envision what elven instruments would sound like, and incorporate them into his songs. I believe they serve to make this album very unique and recognizable, and together with the other folk instruments (harp, flute, maybe some others) they turn a doom album into a very moving fantasy-epic album.

Overall, a very nice and depressing 45-minute sojourn into the realm of Middle-Earth. The biggest flaw I could find with the album would be the entire last song, “Telperyon and Lorelyn”. This song is pretty bad, and “Turyn” would have made for a fucking epic closing song. So if this album had clocked in at 40 minutes instead of 45, I would have scored it even higher. I would recommend this highly to doom or folk metal fans, especially those who have a Tolkien fetish like this guy does.