If it’s not the great old one H.P. Lovecraft then its J.R.R. Tolkien and one has to wonder if the two literary greats would ever have envisaged their impact on the extreme metal world but there is certainly no denying their influence. Some of the time it’s quite sublime and at others bordering on the ridiculous. Now which side of that coin would you imagine Khazaddum falling on when you learn their craft is Dwarven Death Metal? Could this be the stupidest thing that’s crawled out of Middle Earth since Mortiis? Well yes quite easily. I too had to go and check live footage and see if the band dressed up in all the gear when they played live but alas as amazing as that may have been it appears not. I can’t quite tell the heights of the members of the band either and am sure there must be rules on what qualifies being classed as belonging to the Dwarf race. Mind you Luka Đorđević, the Serbian singer from this Milwaukee based clan has got a bit of a look of Gimli about him. I kind of worried that I too had drawn the “short-straw” on reviewing this; it could easily go oh so wrong.

Luckily as another writer pointed out on covering debut EP ‘In Dwarven Halls’ last year this is pretty formidable and surprisingly mature and well co-ordinated stuff. The narrative theme is not the only gimmick as such either, as the band have help from one Trae Titus in composing a symphonic backdrop around their full-tilt, pulverizing death metal mainframe and as the intro piece takes us into the halls of this kingdom a rich atmosphere not unlike those forged by the likes of SepticFlesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse is certainly acknowledged.

First track proper ‘The Deathless Crown’ flails in and from there the album hardly downs tools for a second. The drumming courtesy of Pete Kissane is absolutely lethal and provides one hell of a brutal backbone to the album that never lets up. At first the deluge is almost too much for the gruff vocal prowess to force its way through things but eventually it roars and rises like an indignant (well I guess Dwarf). Most noticeable comparison is the windswept furrow of Nile and Melechesh as this rages away like a djinn uncorked in a sandstorm. The volatile pummelling is occasionally stirred up even more by some fiery guitar licks which spiral forward and cleave away and the playing power is tight and incredibly effective.

Those Games Workshop dwellers among you can no doubt follow the tale itself through the lyrics and song-titles such as ‘Lord Of Isengard’ (obviously no longer Fenriz) and The Black ‘Hand Of Gorthaur’ with knowing looks upon their faces. I read the books as a teen and enjoyed the films as a kidult but am leaving that side of things here, more than happy to bounce off the walls and bang my head to the surgical precision of these raging tracks. The symphonic elements do crop up amidst the songs and huge sounding backing choral parts just emphasize the power of the main thrust and drive. I do have to wonder if they lose a bit of impact from this live as it would be pretty difficult to include arrangements like this without them being sampled but here they allow your imagination to run riot.

Tracks strike as just the right sort of length, the band know they are lethal and have lots going on and seem aware not to overindulge things, the overall running time of 38 minutes is just right too making me want to come back and play this again. The fact that I was into it on the very first listen and found it incredibly accessible and easy to write about quickly, kind of shows its strengths too. Favourite track, probably the one about that black hand as it’s an absolute beast and has some grim almost black metal melodies flowing through its massive bombast. Frankly though the whole album is good and will keep you on a big adrenaline ride throughout.

Don’t take my word for it, listen yourself as the whole album can be streamed via the group’s Bandcamp link. Khazaddum stand head and shoulders above the competition and totally deserve to go on to bigger things!

(8/10 Pete Woods)