Released: 2017, Self Released
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Out of the dwarven halls and into battle, Tolkien metallers Khazaddum roll the 20 sided die of death on their debut full length, PLAGUES UPON ARDA.
As with 2015’s IN DWARVEN HALLS EP, PLAGUES UPON ARDA is a confident and proficient collection of Middle Earth themed technical death metal in the vein of Nile and Tucker-era Morbid Angel. And in having the luxury of expanding that concept over the course of a full length record, the songs are more epic in scope, incorporating more complex arrangements and symphonic elements that help to play up the gravity of the source material.
Save for the opening intro, PLAGUES UPON ARDA is an endurance marathon of Balrog size proportions from beginning to end. The tunes rip at a ferocious pace, each packing a mathematically ridiculous amount of notes deployed at maximum velocity. The constant barrage coming through your speakers can be a bit daunting at times, but you’re generally hard pressed to step away for fear of missing what’s going to come next. Breakthrough moments like the arpeggio’d frenzy in “Legion of the White Hand” and the Behemoth-esque “Masters of the Plain” layer in some welcomed diversity through shaking up the song structure, as does the symphonic pomp of “Oathbreaker’s Curse” as it closes the album in true epic form.
For a debut album from a band still in their relative infancy, PLAGUES UPON ARDA is an impressive achievement; it’s a technically competent, well-constructed and devastatingly executed death metal record. Khazaddum have raised the bar a couple of notches not only for their peer group in the scene, but for themselves on future releases. But with no shortage of mythology to explore, I’m looking forward to hearing where they go next.