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Isildurs Bane - Sagan Om Ringen CD (album) cover


Isildurs Bane


Symphonic Prog

3.38 | 37 ratings

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3 stars Sagan om Ringen - Swedish title for The Fellowship of the Ring, as it's known to most of you - tells the story of Tolkien's first book in his celebrated trilogy. Of course in a compressed, musical form, capable of only encapsulating some of the key points in the story. To give you a taste of what's chronicled (apart from the obvious Moria) the translated titles include Strider, The Black Riders and Rivendell. You get the picture. As such, there is the obvious flaw that comes with many "soundtracks"; it's mood music, a musical backdrop to a far more detailed and nuanced storyline. And given that the music is trying to capture wildly different moods and settings, it just feels a bit loose and fractured as an album. Sagan om Ringen certainly fights with both of these problems.

On the other hand, if you isolate the tracks, focusing on them individually, it's pretty clear that they fit the situations they portray rather accurately. Hearing some of the wonderful songs and poems of Tolkien's (naturally the Swedish translations) given life is refreshing. I just can't deny that. The folk-tinged, somewhat sunny, somewhat mysterious Vandring, depicting the life of a wanderer (remember this one, Tolkienites?); it really feels like your out there on wide fields and in dense, deep-green forests, only to get a first glimpse of snow-covered peaks in the distance while the fresh air is saturated with the smell of wet moss and a hundred different flowers. The murkiness and gradually rising and falling tension of Gamla Skogen (The Old Forest), the playful whimsicality that is heard on Tom Bombadill and the ancient power and defiance when the true identity of Strider is hinted at in the song Vidstige are three other examples where the music fits both the lyrics and the overall mood, and the rest of the album is much in the same vein. Unfortunately, you might not get this sort of enjoyment out of it if you're not a fan of the books, and Swedish isn't commonly taught as a second language around the world.

The music can't be called extraordinary, but comes off as quite pleasant anyway. It's a bit lighter symphonic prog, trusting space and evocative motifs rather than sheer technique and complexity. Comparisons to Camel and early Genesis are understandable due to this, but not fully accurate. The psych of Camel is nowhere to be found, neither is the dense guitar/keyboard undergrowth of Genesis. What you get here is a more folk-heavy sound, with a lot of nice acoustic guitar and flute. Keys are generally kept in a flowing background role, adding depth and colour to the music. Sometimes it's even delivered in the clinical and slightly cold fashion of many neo-prog bands. The neo-prog connotations don't stop there, as the clean and soft guitar delivery and sound here certainly reminds me of that sub-genre. Furthermore, listening to the first part of Ringarnas Härskare, you can't rule out that the band has listened to Mike Oldfield and his new-age and world music antics. The space in many of the compositions leaves room for some truly delicious and inspired bass lines, delivered with precision and emotion. Once again, no pyrotechnics. Things do get a bit busier at times though, for example in Tom Bombadill, with its more up-tempo, crowded soundscape and in the galloping and rolling De Svarta Ryttarna. The percussion work-out of Moria also stands out. Unfortunately, it isn't very interesting.

As per usual, I stand a bit conflicted listening to this sort of music. It's all a bit too mellow, nice and neatly arranged. However, Isildurs Bane has a unique flavour to them, with the strange brew of influences that is this record. As such it feels more personal, more honest and more gratifying listening to it. I've come back to the albums many times lately, simply because some of the songs have had a lasting effect on me. They just keep popping up in my head from time to time. Be it for me being a LOTR fanboy, or simply because this is something I would otherwise rarely listen to - but in the end I like it. Strange how these things work, eh?

3 stars.


LinusW | 3/5 |


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