1. In The Beginning 
2. Gathering Darkness
3. Voices Of The Fallen Kings
4. Into The Wild
5. Unite or Fall
6. Malls Of Doom
7. Signs by the Silver Stream
8. The Chase
9. Last Battle
10. The Escape
Jakob Samuel - Vocals, Drums & Keyboard
Pontus Norgren - Guitars, Bass & Keyboard
Marcus Jidell - Guitars, Bass & Keyboard


the RING:  "Tales from Midgard"                  

cover artwork done by JP Fournier - release date 07.06.2004

preview - review  by Marco "Norman Knight" Signore____   


The Ring is a Swedish trio of good musicians, that decided to make in music their version of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Beware… this is not a Blind Guardian imitation. The style is very personal, and different enough from many power metal bands trying to enter in the “true” epic metal (my humble opinion: true epic metal is not power metal. True epic is stuff like Man o’war and Virgin Steele). Interestingly enough (and maybe for copyright reasons) the names of characters and places are never used in the lyrics, but the reference is clear enough. And this is just the first part of an announced trilogy that will bring Lord of the Rings to our metal ears.

In the Beginning is the first track of this concept album, and – unlike most of the Power/Epic bands around, it’s not an intro, yet a full-fledged track in its own. After the first notes you understand the stuff these guys are made of. Powerful metal, with heavy drumming, complex vocals, and stout and hard guitars, heavy in their simplicity, but strong support to the voice, the kind of music you expect without too many embroidering's. The final guitar solo is a long tapping affair, maybe just a bit too long, but it does not disturb. This song is very compact and marches like a… well, like a dwarf in iron armour, if you allow me the similarity.

Gathering Darkness is the second track in this album, and starts with a guitar riff (reminiscent of Helloween), only to become a mid tempo song. Old fashoned metal, maybe, but hitting its mark well enough. The bass is in good evidence, and the stopped chorus “I hear his voice in the night…” will please many epic fans out there. Frodo decides to take the ring and follow the advice of Gandalf… destroy the ring! Good track, taking on its shoulders the heritage of years of German metal “a-la Helloween”.

With a good change of pace we hear Voices of the Fallen Kings. “We are the silent riders, we move like the wind” – the Nazgûl come. Still shadows, they are the Black Riders, fallen undead, former kings of men (as you all know), and this song haunts the listener, giving a perfect impression of the ride of these fallen wraiths, stalking and then opnely hunting the ring-bearer and his friends. The guitar soloes are aggressive and vicious, as the whole song. Power, sharpness, devastation, all is perfectly expressed in this magnificent song. Even the piercing scream of the Nazgûl is present in this song… “Riders of darkness… run for you life”, They come… no one will be spared.

We try to shake away the terror brought by the black riders in Into the Wild, the next song in the disc. The sequence of chords is driving, as Aragorn speaks to the Hobbits: “I have been sent to the old and grey”. The song here is cadenced and aggressive, trying to give the impression of the hurrying escape through the wilderness, led by the valiant Dunadàn. But the Nazgûl find them…the guitar riff is abruptly broken by an acoustic part…”turn back to the light” the Elven powers try to save Frodo from the Morgul knife. The anguish in the Elven enchantment is well expressed in this part, as the crescendo of voices, guitars and bass leads us to a slow guitar solo rich in depth and effects…and then the chase goes on again… “Escape in the wild, fly to the ford” near the river… black knights in pursuit… the distant choirs fade as we move into the next song, Unite or fall. We are at the Council, we see the decision of Elrond indeed the music again helps us to imagine the situation… majestic and ominous, the guitar riffs are stout and personalized, and the drum cadenced, never indulging in excesses. The chorus is marked by a fall of guitars that use flangered arpeggios to accompany the forming of the Fellowship. Here the drum work is exceptional indeed, with intelligent use of the various parts (especially the hi-hat). The guitar solo with a generous dose of harmonizers follows the hard decision taken by the Free People… and sudden is silence. A piano sprinkles notes of cold anguish, as Frodo takes the hard decision to become the ringbearer… and again the music grows, expands, like the fires of Mount Doom, as an intelligent use of phasers and reverberations on the voice builds up the atmosphere again.

We move into the next song, Halls of Doom. Choirs and acoustic guitars escort the main voice that relates us that all the ways are blocked by the Enemy. Where shall we go, except through the Gates of Moria? The descent into the dark abyss is full of danger, and here the music leads us to the deadly ambush of the balrog. The march into the darkness is well marked by the guitars on the excellent bass’n’drum work, alternating distortion to flanger. “Run, run, run!” is the order, as the guitar goes in a wha-wha solo that has so much in common with the progressive rock of the seventies… and again the acoustic guitar escorts the choir “Our hope’s so small, our loss so great”. Gandalf fell… the fellowship is agonizing, and flies towards the Forest of Lorien, and the chorus becomes obsessive to lead us to the end of this splendid song, with a guitar solo more in character with the heavy metal nature of this excellent disc.

Signs by the Silver Stream has a sort of spectral intro with crescendo of keyboard pads, almost like an organ… we are beside the mirror of Galadriel and the vocals of Jake Samuel tries to give us idea of the Elven queen speak. This song has an ominous feeling and a sad cadenced slow tempo, on which a heavy barrage of keyboards falls. Violins, pads, synths, everything is used here to create the image of the dialogue between Galadriel and Frodo. Original in its conception and execution, this Signs by the Silver Stream is maybe the most original song in this album. The tempo mainly marked by hi-hat and bass drum as the guitars enter in the last part to help the bass and the choirs and lead the finale in a sort of painful march that ends with choirs and a heartbeat sound.

The Chase brings again us into a driving and relentless Heavy Metal, as Saruman talks to the Uruk Hai… sending them after the Fellowship. Splendid piece of Heavy Metal (and one of my favourite tracks in this album), The Chase would not be out of place in metal operas like Aina or Nostradamus. The Uruk's run and track relentlessly, driven by the dark will of their wicked wizard master and the guitars follow their steps marked by the drums and the bass. “Seek and destroy, my savage warriors!” exhorts Saruman. Excellent piece indeed! A beautiful bridge of synth arpeggio mark the words of the sorcerer and the hails and roars of his warhost in a crescendo of guitars and drums worth of the best heroic Iron Maiden pieces. And suddenly a mid tempo marked by guitar effects hurls the listener into the gloomy atmosphere of the Uruks tracking through the cold woods along the Isen, with a drum solo marking the return of the chorus. And the bass work, oh my! It comes directely from the glorious days of Heavy Metal, the one with capital letters, guys!

Last Battle starts as the only “Power Metal” song in this album, opening with Boromir trying to take the ring from Frodo. Driving is the music here, following the temporary madness of the great warrior and the flight of Frodo. High pitched voices with a double bass drum and hammered guitars, violins, and the song goes on to the battle, with a crescendo of phased guitars, voices in the background and heavy, powerful drumming and bass lines – Frodo escapes and Samvise follows!

The album closes with a slow acoustic guitar with an analog pedal bass in support, and synth pads carving a space in our imagination… a distant thunder… and the story will continue in the next album.

This album is beautiful. I don’t want to use other adjectives… just beautiful. Some will think that it is too “simple”. I disagree. It is well coinceived, well arranged, and well played. No attention to the technical excess that is polluting the power metal today, but the attention is all on the souns, sonorities, atmospheres, lyrics – there is nothing banal in this album. Some people, especially those who prize hyper-speed riffs and screaming hyper-high pitched voices, and constant double bass drums, will find this album boring. I think that this should be the way a Heavy Metal album should be conceived. The story is never banalized and The Ring managed to tell this Epic tale without falling in the too abused cliché of the modern Power Metal.

What else to say? I can hardly wait for the second and third part… unfortunately enough suspecting that we shall wait as long as we waited for the movies…

: 9.5/10  


Marco Signore    

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