What happens when you put two bands together, from different ends of the stoner doom spectrum, give them a theme to work with and ask them to write and record something. The answer my friends is one bad-ass split!
Thorr-Axe and Archarus, both Indianapolis bands, have come together in one place to tell the story, through the medium of riffage, of the humble Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and his "unexpected journey" through the mythical lands of Middle-Earth to aid a group of Dwarves reclaim their home..
Thorr-Axe open proceedings with "Good Morning" a gentle piece with acoustic instruments picking out baroque-like melodies that are then joined by their electric equivalent in a Floydian-like medieval groove. Soaring, tranquil and quite beautiful it in no way prepares you for what comes next.
"Dawn take You All" begins with a stuttering fuzz drenched stoner refrain before erupting like the fires of Mount Doom above the Plateau of Gorgorath in plumes of thrash like blackened doom with throaty harsh vocals screamed over a backdrop of gnarly heavy riffage and pulsating rhythm like the soundtrack to an Orc war party on the march.
"Foehammer" is up next and this time it's Archarus' turn to step up to plate with a tale telling of Gandalf' the Wizard's legendary weapon of mass destruction, his sword. Archarus here play Elrond to Thorr-Axe's Sauron their cleaner less abrasive classical/epic doom approach of powerful clean toned vocals and searing guitar solos over more traditional heavy metal grooves are seemingly used, within the albums concept, to portray values of glory and heroism against those of war, blood and battle which, in this recording, seem to be the territory of Thorr-Axe.
Thorr-Axe return for "Whispers In The Dark" it's serene and tranquil intro a smoke screen for the enormous grizzled doom grooves following behind. Sitting a little more lower and slower, initially, than their previous track and with a slightly less harsh but just as intense, vocal delivery it slowly grows in menace and tempo until fading in a whirlwind of thrash-like metallic splendour.
Archarus step into the spotlight for the next two songs "Flies & Spiders" and "Erebor".the former beginning with gently picked/strummed clean jazz-like guitar tones then shifting through the gears into a galloping Maiden-esque groove over which clear strong vocals and a mix of clean and fuzzed guitars soar and swoop. The latter is an ode to the stone walls of the mountain home the Dwarves are so desperate to regain and begins with a gnarly bass motif interspersed with flashes of chordal guitar colouring before segueing into pulverising proto-doom groove embellished with Celtic tinted guitar harmonies, that combined with the excellent vocal and lyrical content result in a groove that in places comes across like a meeting between Thin Lizzy and Dio.
Thorr-Axe close proceedings with "Battle of Five Armies" a song and theme perfectly suited to their brand of blackened doom and sludgey metal. Thorr-Axe bring into play elements of both epic doom and its sludgey stoner cousin in a groove dripping with atmosphere and emotion that sees throat tearing vocals roared over a backdrop of dramatically shifting grooves that perfectly match the ebb and flow of a battle, close your eyes and you can at times almost hear the clash of sword on shield.
Split albums can sometimes be risky affairs, throw a "concept" into the mix and that risk increases two-fold, fortunately by structuring the playlist so that the story is shared on the merits of it's musical dynamics, rather than the usual one band, one side structure, the two bands manage to pull it off with honours even and their reputations enhanced and intact.
Check it out ....