As even a casual observer could probably figure out, “Evenstar,” the title of the latest release from Dwarrowdelf takes its name from JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” This is the basic premise of all of the band’s releases, taking inspiration from the lands of Middle-earth and creating epic Death Folk Metal songs around and between those stories.
While I have read the “LotR” trilogy of books as well as the prequel, “The Hobbit” (a personal favourite), I wouldn’t even pretend to be a scholar on the subject. Let it be known that if you are a fan of the books and this type of music, I think that you will quickly find yourself happily immersed in Tolkien’s world through Dwarrowdelf’s albums.
“Evenstar” is primarily the story of Aragorn and his quest to win Arwen as his bride. The album opens with epic guitar riffs, as befitting the tale being told. It then shifts to a brief keyboard part before hitting hard with one of the two main riffs of the opening track, “Estel.” Similar shifts between synth breaks and crushing guitars ranging from Thrash to Death to Black Metal are found throughout the album.
There are constant layers, guitars and drums being heard most prominently, but the keyboards are there at almost all times. The guitars on this album, as well as ranging in style, have multiple parts happening, with riffs holding things down and melodic lines intertwining with each other and the keyboards. There are also some excellent harmonized guitar parts, particularly on “The Three Hunters.”
The vocals shift between a mid-range death metal growl and a clean, almost crooning vocal style. While I usually prefer a more clean vocal style, I will say that I am not a huge fan of Tom O’Dell’s clean vocals on this album. However, it does serve the songs well. There are also several sections where chanting choral vocals are implemented to good effect, especially at the beginning and end of “The Eagle of the Star.”
The drumming by Joe Bollettiero is stellar throughout. His full-kit fills in the second half of “Undómiel” are great, and he can kill you with a blast beat like anyone. The true drumming highlights come out during “In Pursuit of Ghosts,” where Joe employs some fantastic tribal beats, as well as during the one and only true guitar solo (performed by guest Jeremy Reinhold) on “For the Kingdom I Shall Claim.”
What is sorely lacking on this album is strong bass guitar. It seems like the bass has either been overtaken by the layers of keyboards or there truly is little or no bass on the album. When I do hear bass guitar, I wonder if the parts were executed on a guitar and then transposed down in the recording process. I say this because when it is noticeable, it follows the guitar part so closely that it sounds like that may be the case. There is a short section in “The Three Hunters” that sounds like an actual bass guitar, but I can’t be sure.
“In Pursuit of Ghosts” is easily the heaviest track and my favourite, hitting you right away with a blast beat from hell, before slowing things down for the primary Thrash riff. As with the entire album, multiple guitar parts complement each other, but bass appears to be absent. As expected from the hearing the first four tracks, the drums on this track are outstanding. The bridge of the song brings in more Folk elements with a tin whistle solo (from guest Kristoffer Graemesen) played over an equally complex keyboard part before resuming its heaviness.
Despite what I perceive as flaws in “Evenstar,” the apparent lack of bass guitar and the clean vocals, I do really like the album overall. The songs are well-constructed and held my attention throughout its 44 minutes. The band’s concept is interesting and the primary instruments, guitars, drums, and keyboards, work very well together to create an epic story worth hearing.
Rating – 4/5