Mordor’s third full length Darkness… may have slipped in under your radar when it released back in April, but it’s worth circling back on as we move into the second half of 2018. To be fair, considering the twenty-one-year gap between this album and the band’s last release perhaps it’s not surprising that this one passed you by. But with elements that span death/doom, black metal, and gothic/symphonic metal, Mordor manages to continually surprise and explore new territory with each song. It’s a highly polished effort that feels like a new beginning for the long-running band, and hopefully it won’t be the last we hear from them.
Like some other bands of their time Mordor started off with a very heavy sound that pulled from death/doom in equal capacity and then followed it up with an album that drastically changed directions. 1997’s The Earth moved away from harsh vocals and upped the gothic/dark metal influences for a very different sound, and while I’m unsure of how it was received at the time it is curious that it’s the only release from the band’s discography that wasn’t included in Witching Hour Production’s run of 2016 reissues. But no matter the case, for their reunion the instrumentals have balanced both sides of the spectrum while also pushing out towards new territory. Slower, methodical tempos that have a death/doom base still drive the songs, but Mordor tends to build off of this foundation in unexpected ways. From the melodic interludes that have a gloomy yet entrancing atmosphere to the faster riffing that adopts some of black metal’s bite, there’s always something slightly different on each track that catches you off guard and sticks in your memory. It’s clear that the four years that have passed since the group first reformed have been well spent, as the transitions are fluid and even though the compositions are long they never outstay their welcome. There’s a definite return to a more extreme/heavy sound on Darkness…, but just the right amount of melodic exploration fills out the sound.
Similar to the instrumentals, there’s a good deal of variation to the vocal performance. The lower growls are some of the most dominant ranges throughout Darkness…, but you’ll also find gloomier clean singing and some higher shrieks in the mix. This is where some of the additional gothic influences come in, as the cleaner pitches are reminiscent of a number of different bands in this style, but they’re well balanced with the heft of the aggressive pitches. The growls are likely what will stand out the most, as they stand tall above the recording and have an immense amount of weight that grabs your attention with each word. It’s clear that Mordor has put just as much effort into their vocal performance as they have the rest of their material, and no matter which range they head in there isn’t a weak moment to be found.
Whether you discovered their death/doom back in the 90s or are using Darkness… as an introduction, there’s a lot to like about Mordor’s latest album. Each of the six tracks expands outwards into different directions while maintaining a haunting and thick atmosphere, and the writing has the right amount of hooks to keep listeners returning for more. Four years into their reunion these guys have made a strong statement and I hope they only continue with this forward momentum. Darkness… is out now from Pagan Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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