I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Genre: Symphonic/blackened/epic power metal
Release: Stormspell Records, Sept. 2017
As I prepared for my initial spin of Numenor's Chronicles (a.k.a. Chronicles From the Realms Beyond, per the band's Facebook page), I wondered if I was even qualified to review this disc.
The album's promotional materials describe Numenor as an "epic blackened sympho-power brigade from Middle-Earth," which lacked appeal for me on several levels—first, because I have little knowledge of, nor interest in, anything related to "black metal," and second, I am not at all versed in the works of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien, from whom all of Numenor's musical inspirations apparently flow.
According to the good folks at Metal-Archives, even the band's moniker comes from Tolkien, where "Numenor" is "the name of the five pointed island given to the Dunedain". . .to which I can only shrug and say "Oooo-kay, if you say so."
In other words, my guard was up as I pressed the "play" button on Chronicles for the first time, but this Serbian five-piece turned out to be more listenable than I'd anticipated. The "black" metal quotient of Numenor's music seems limited to its overall dark, doomy atmosphere and the screechy, occasionally harsh vocals.
Musically, Numenor turned out to be surprisingly melodic, having more in common with the likes of Blind Guardian than face-painted church burners like Mayhem or Burzum (which was a relief)! I may not know a Hobbit from an Orc from a Dwarf, but Numenor's classy musical attack was soon casting a spell on me and drawing me in anyway.
Numenor "Heart of Steel"
One Ring to Rule Them All . . . or Something Like That
Three distinct vocalists are credited on Chronicles, two males and one female. Zeljko Jovanovic is the Michael Kiske-esque "clean" singer and Despot Marko Miranovic handles the snarling, "blackened forest goblin" screeching. The lovely Sandra Plamenats also drops in occasionally to lend some gothic/operatic accents.
Opening track "Heart of Steel" is a speedy, keyboard-laden number that gets the pulse racing admirably; Zeljko handles most of the work load on this track, but Marko comes in to add a little grit and grimness on the choruses. This vocal trade-off continues through the next track, "Carven Stone," another melodic power metal number.
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"Witching Hour" picks up the tempo to near-thrash intensity at times, giving guitarist Srdjan Brankovic and drummer Marko Milojevic a chance to show their stuff. Appropriately for a song with this title, the vocals on this one are mostly Growly Guy's show.
"Beyond the Doors of the Night" may be my favorite track thus far with its chugging, riffy goodness and horror-movie keyboard accents courtesy of Mladen Gosic. Miss Sandra makes her first appearance of the album here, dueling with Despot Marko in a vocal battle between darkness and light.
On "Moria" all three vocalists guide the listener through an epic tale of ancient war that would make Manowar sit up and take notice, then "Over the Mountains Cold" is another blast of frosty blackened crunchiness with Marko howling for all he's worth until Zeljko comes in to make the choruses clear and catchy.
A brief classically-tinged instrumental called "Realms Beyond" sounds like it could be the opening-credits theme for Peter Jackson's next megazillion dollar fantasy film epic, crashing into "The Last of the Dragonlords" (it doesn't get much more 'metal" than that song title, kids!)
It seems like every "epic" power metal band has to have a song called "Valhalla," and Numenor is no exception. This is a cover of the Blind Guardian track and it's a fist-clenching power metal anthem that's sure to have the kids waving their swords and armor-clad fists in the air. "Valhalla" is wisely placed in the album-closing position and it ends the disc on a satisfactorily heavy-duty note.
Numenor "Carven Stone"
Summing It Up
Considering that I had low expectations for the disc when I first popped it in, Chronicles turned out to be a pretty sweet listen. Those of you with more knowledge of the epic/fantasy metal genre(s) will likely enjoy it even more than I did. Numenor occupies a unique place in the metal pantheon, sitting atop a mountain near the intersection of Rhapsody of Fire and Dimmu Borgir. . .but they're not as irritatingly pompous or overblown as Rhapsody, and they don't dress as funny as Dimmu.
If you need a new combo to provide the soundtrack to your next LOTR cosplay contest or Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Numenor's Chronicles should fill the bill nicely. Maybe I oughta give that Tolkien guy another try one of these days. . .
Colossal Darkness - Stygian Crypt Productions, 2013
Sword and Sorcery - Stormspell Records, 2015
Chronicles - Stormspell Records, 2017
© 2017 Keith Abt