Keys of Orthanc – Of the Lineage of Kings Review

The title track and introduction for Of the Lineage of Kings, the fourth full-length release from Canadian Lord-of-the-Rings-meets-black-metal fans Keys of Orthanc, amusingly, feels like the perfect theme music for me as I compose this introduction paragraph. For one thing, this review is late — I’m not sure I’ve ever penned a review quite so long after the album has already come out. Life, it gets in the way. And yet, I am determined — determined, against all odds, to overcome the aforementioned life and get news of Of the Lineage of Kings out to you, the reader, who deserves no less than my fullest attention, to be saved, heroically, from… well, from not knowing about this release. Either way, the heroic, grim, determined instrumental is a great segue into my thoughts here, and I recommend playing it as you read this review.

Despite Of the Lineage of Kings being Keys of Orthanc’s fourth full-length release in as many years, the band still sounds fresh, sharp, and creative in their approach of symphonic black metal with a touch of atmosphere. Horns, strings, and warlike chants adorn a soundscape of blistering tremolos and blast beats aplenty. The black metal maintains its edge, and Harslingoth’s shrieks are as potent as ever, even as clean vocals from the throats of soldiers battle for dominance. “Shards of Narcil” shows off his many talents nicely, over seven minutes that steadily rise in action until the duo explodes into a blistering hailstorm of symphonic black metal goodness.

And let me tell you, blistering hailstorms of symphonic black metal goodness are what Keys of Orthanc do best. An interlude sits in the halfway mark of the album, before which are two songs that see the duo pushing the pedal to the floor and annihilating that which stands in their way, while the second half of the album lets them slow down a little and work with more mid-paced, well-written explorations of their sound. Dorgul, being the man with all of the non-vocal instruments, excels throughout, weaving the triumph of victory, the bitter chill of battle, and the darkest spirits from their source material into the album’s best tracks, including “King of the Reunited Kingdom,” with its powerful, memorable, and explosive conclusion.

With only thirty-eight minutes of runtime (not including the bonus track, a fifteen-minute cover of Caladan Brood’s “Book of the Fallen”), Keys of Orthanc have a lot of ground to cover quickly on Of the Lineage of Kings, and they certainly make the most of that runtime. Still, the inclusion of a two-minute interlude (“To the Paths of the Dead”), as well as an introduction and an outro track means that roughly a third of Of the Lineage of Kings is ambient, interlude, or scene-setting. While this certainly helps with maintaining a good flow for the album, it also means that there are only four songs and twenty-five minutes of metal going on here, which is enough to leave me wanting more, but it feels like Of the Lineage of Kings is missing something. What’s here is certainly both good and enjoyable, but as an album, it feels ever-so-slightly… hollow. Unfortunately, the concluding track ends the album on an anticlimactic note after the raging triumph that is “King of the Reunited Kingdom,” which contributes to me wanting more, more, and more from this release.1

Still, as criticisms go, “I wish there was more of it” is pretty good, I think — it’s the kind of answer you give in a job interview when the interviewer asks if you have any weaknesses. Of the Lineage of Kings sees Keys of Orthanc comfortable in a sound that is all their own and offering a brisk, enjoyable ride through the Middle Earth. I’m really coming to really like the Keys of Orthanc approach to slightly atmospheric, mostly symphonic black metal, and can only be impressed by their output of the previous four years, right up to and including Of the Lineage of Kings.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Naturmacht Productions
Websites: |
Released Worldwide: February 5th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. I should mention that because the “Book of the Fallen” cover is a bonus track, I have been considering “I’ve Seen the Dragons Fly” as the album’s conclusion throughout this review.
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