Sweden's Dun Ringill, Tomas “GG” Eriksson (vocals); Patrik Andersson Winberg (bass); Neil Grant (drums); Tommy Stegemann (guitar); Jens Florén (guitar) and Patric “Peppe” Grammann (guitar), are a band with a wealth of experience behind them having among their number members who have graced the line-ups of bands such as The Order of Israfel, Doomdogs, Silverhorse and Neon Leon. The band opened their account in 2019 with the release of "Welcome" a well received debut that saw Dun Ringill treading similar blackened doomic waters to that of their fellow Scandinavian brothers Ordos only fleshed out with elements of old school heavy metal and lilting Nordic folk and featuring instrumentation that included flute, mellotron and Hammond organ. The band followed up "Welcome" a year later with "Library of Death", again it was an album steeped in doom and yet again that doom came with a side order of elements gleaned from the full spectrum of folk, metal and heavy rock, this time the albums instrumentation augmented with hurdy gurdy, violin and church organ. "Library of Death" was Dun Ringill's last with founding member Hans Lilja and his place behind the drum kit has since been taken by Neil Grant who, among other things, has composed anthems for Scottish football teams. Grant brings to Dun Ringill's table not only a more progressive percussive attack but also an added vocal dynamic, the drummer/vocalist providing a clean foil to Eriksson's throaty roars and growls. The addition of Grant to the bands line up has ignited a new fire in the band and in turn has inspired them to take on their most ambitious project to date, a double album laid out in two acts (released separately) the first of which, "Where The Old Gods Play-Act 1" (The Sign Records) we will be reviewing today.
Both "Welcome" and "Library of Death" opened with strong impactful tracks that set the tone for the rest of their respective albums and opening song "Awakening" does exactly the same thing for this, the bands third album. "Awakening" begins with the sound of bagpipes played over a backdrop of crashing waves then explodes into a groove that is a mixture of doom, heavy metal and classic rock over which the bands three guitarists fire off crunching chord progressions and searing solos like there is no tomorrow. Eriksson's distinctive throaty vocals tell of becoming "one with this mire" and are offset in the chorus by Grant's clean, almost symphonic tones, the combined effect giving the song an epic doom feel. The epic feel of the opening song is even more pronounced on following song "The Parish", slower, danker and murkier than its predecessor, and featuring nicely pitched spoken segments from Grant, the song treads a musical path that sits somewhere between Candlemass and Pagan Altar while still retaining its own unique identity.. We probably should of explained earlier that "Where The Old Gods Play-Act 1" is the first instalment of a two part concept based around the story of an 18th century priest with an (as yet) undisclosed agenda, so its not surprising that lyrically some songs lean towards anti-religious, and you can't get anymore anti-religious than accusing the head of the Catholic Church of being the devil as Dun Ringill do on the excellent "The Devil Wears a Papal Tiara" a song that seamlessly meshes doomic heaviness with elements of Celtic metal flair. Following number "Baptised In Fire" begins with the sound of a reed pipe being played over the sound of trickling water then erupts into a metallic reel over which Eriksson preaches in grizzled tones of a "new world order" promising that it will be "magnificent" while "Nathaniels Hymn" sees bassist Winberg and drummer Grant laying down a series of thrumming grooves for guitarists Stegemann, Florén and Grammann to embellish with Celtic flavoured harmonies, scorching bluesy lead and crunching power chords while Eriksson implores, in tones grave and gritty, to be heard, seen, felt and fed. Up next is "Blood of the Lord", a song with a strong cinematic feel, its vocal mix of gritty lead and Gregorian flavoured cadences and its inclusion of a solemn prayer, incanted to a backdrop of gentle arpeggios, adding considerable weight to that feel. For the closing number we get "The Last Supper" a song themed around a discovery of betrayal set against a backdrop of gnarly stonerized metal, the song serving as somewhat of a cliff-hanger in the albums overall story and thus setting things up nicely for the eventual arrival of "Where The Gods Play-Act 2".
Based on a movie script written by bassist and main songwriter Winberg, Dun Ringill's "Where The Old Gods Play-Act 1" is a story that tackles issues of mistrust, betrayal and manipulation against a backdrop of religious fervour, a story played out to a soundtrack of heavy music that is rooted in doom but not defined by the genre. Lyrically intelligent and musically progressive Dun Ringell have with "Act 1" gone musically above and beyond anything they have attempted previously, a stunning tome that promises much for "Act 2"
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