Album opener Retribution is more of an intro than an actual song but it sets the scene nicely with its’ mystical symphonic majesty. The synth fades and then the album really starts with The White Hand which proudly paints the band’s colours for all to see; a heady mix of symphonic/melodic, blackened thrash metal, thundering drum patterns, and chunky guitars. I’m not sure who’s taking the lead on the vocals (Hargoth, Raiven Dark, and Morgath are all noted as contributing vocals as well as bass, guitars, and keyboards respectively) but the style wouldn’t be out of place on any self-respecting black metal album, as they hoarsely croak over the riffage. Things slow down about mid-way and give the bass and keyboards a bit of room to roam about, there’s a bit of chanting (‘Hail Saruman’, I think?) and then it’s back on with the blasting. Did I mention that the band are quite into Lord of the Rings and the fantasy genre? Their press shots present a group who are quite into a bit of studded leather, corpse-paint, and hooded robes, and there’s nowt wrong with that, I say.
The Ravens Return paints a more contemplative picture. Neravar batters the kit admirably, and Luna provides additional juice on the guitars. I like it a lot but there is something about the tone of the guitars that irks me. Perhaps they are a touch too clean? Anyhow, it’s a minor gripe and I’m otherwise enjoying how things are progressing so far. I’d be keen to see Darklore live, and it just so happens that they hail from my home-town of Brisbane AND they’re playing on the 30th of January at the Brightside. I’ll almost certainly be there if I can get a leave pass from Nurse.
Cue samples of thunder and rain. Fling in some haunting keyboards. Thus we come to Forlorn the Light. Muddier guitars please me no end and a mixture of vocals confuse me in a most terribly splendid fashion. This stuff is going to come across even better at a gig – but it’s still the good oil. As debut albums go, The Evil of Man is a strong start. Castle Black starts with an almost Mighty Boosh-esque sound, and I almost expected some lyrics about a sexy yeti but it soon fattens up with layers of guitars – there’s still an almost sing-song quality to it though, which was quite charming.
Wings of Fire, The Empire Has Fallen, and From the Shadow follow in quick succession, and all in Darklore’s now familiar (but in no way formulaic) style. It’s a big ask to maintain the integrity of an album along with the identity of a band when it is so patently entrenched in orcs, goblins, and the like – but Darklore manage to do it for an entire album which plays for seventy two minutes. The Evil of Man as a track starts off with maudlin fuzzy guitar and then goes into the manic blasting that is a hall-mark of each track on the album. Despite some odd time changes, it is suitably epic (I especially enjoyed the keys on this one), if perhaps not as heavy as some of the other tracks – and there is some marvellous demonic growling about half way through. I also enjoyed the mid-section splitting off and becoming an almost song within a song.
Final track Curse of Frostmourne sees our real-life LARPers (you can Google that if you don’t know what it means) round out the album in suitably magickal style. A massively technical album this isn’t but a bloody good romp through Mordor, Westeros and/or Essos it is. Don’t over-think it, just enjoy it. Good fun and a promising start.
The Evil of Man releases on January 29th.