I’m going to go ahead and be completely self-indulgent for a moment. When I get to review a second release from an artist in a row it really fills me with a sense of joy. As if I’m a part of this bands evolution and journey. Equally it gives me great pride to think that my reviewing is an ongoing and ever-changing process. It puts things into perspective and I realise that I’ve been reviewing now for ten years! Double digits! That’s a long time, alas enough about me let’s talk Black Metal.

Last year the one-man project Keys Of Orthanc arose hailing from Quebec, Canada with a large barrage of Tolkien knowledge. Now in 2019 the band have updated themselves to a two piece with founder Dorgul taking instrumentation duties and newcomer Harslingoth taking to the vocal duties. This new incarnation of the band graces us with the release of their sophomore full length the grimly named A Battle In The Dark Lands Of The Eye… a release that promises to combat the subject of the wars of man and orc in the fiery hells of Mordor.

The opening titular instrumental is a well composed offering of Dark Ambient, or to be more precise Dungeon Synth qualities. Since the release of the bands debut I have gone on to become quite the fan of Dungeon Synth and thus this struck a chord with me. Proceeding to the first Black Metal track At The Gate we see a similar brand of Dungeon Synth that lays beneath slabs of fast paced bile. Bile which is spewed forth by Harslingoth with great effect. This combination of Black Metal and Dungeon Synth, coupled with some clean vocals makes for a unique and dare I say retro listen almost like early Symphonic Black Metal brought anew. Besieged sees this trend (or lack thereof) carried forward adding into the mix more hook heavy riffs yet still it sticks true to the Dungeon Synth base.

Middle track The Old Castle Of Durthang is perhaps the bands most ambitious work to date, its delicate introduction transcends from the Atmospheric into the Progressive. A strong lead up to the decidedly melancholy heart of this Black Metal storm. The flesh of this release is padded out via the crushing weight of Lord’s Bane and Uruk Agh Burgûl which give us more Dungeon Synth dwellings of Symphonic Black Metal fury. Imagine D&D soundscapes with Black Metal over the top and you’ve got Keys Of Orthanc. Finally the album follows suite of its predecessor and closes with another instrumental, which again is steeped is Atmospheric bliss and deep medieval Dungeon Synth.

So there we have it the sophomore effort from Keys Of Orthanc. This album proves without a doubt that this band have something to say. The first release interested me and this one has me hooked. I admit that this is likely not to everyones taste. At points the Dungeon Synth underlay can feel a little muddled amid the traditional Black Metal but to me it adds a certainly flare kind of like Bal-Sagoth and their all out Symphonic assault. I will end by saying this though, if you’re a nerd (like me) and like Dungeon Synth, D&D, LOTR and fantasy in general then this is an album not to be missed.

(8/10 George Caley)