Morgul Blade – Fell Sorcery Abounds Review

For the roughly eight months that I’ve been an official AMG toilet cleaner reviewer, several things have become clear to my fellow writers: I rate low, my coffee consumption is high, and I love Lord of the Rings.1 This latter piece of information comes in handy when I want to get my grubby paws on any LotR-themed album that flows down the mighty Anduin and into our flea-infested promo bog. Knowing my penchant for Baggins n’ Balrogs, the kind souls who inhabit these halls will often give me a heads up when something Ring-adjacent arrives. Such was the case with Morgul Blade, a Philly-based four piece and their debut Fell Sorcery Abounds. But does it meet my lofty expectations? Or, like Ectheleon impaling Gothmog into that most famous of fountains in fair Gondolin, were my ever-growing nerd hopes extinguished? 

Morgul Blade traffic in more traditional heavy metal fair, infused with black metal snarls, grandiose cleans, chugging guitars, backing synths, and enough war, battles, and Tolkien-inspired subject matter to satisfy folk metal adherents without alienating your average fan with over-the-top cheese. Even though the music is relatively straightforward (you won’t find any tech death noodling here on the vast plains of Rohan), it’s surprisingly complex in terms of both inspiration and transitions. After listening to Fell Sorcery Abounds almost non-stop for several weeks, I can identify a wide variety of influences, from Havukruunu and Enisferum to Bathory and Unto Others. Morgul Blade are able to meld all of their inspirations into a tight, engaging album that can seamlessly transition between complimentary genres. This sword-bearing quartet are quite adept at fusing melody and ferocity, sorrowful lows and epic highs. 

And those skills come in handy, because these guys are committed to engaging the audience not only musically, but emotionally. While opening track “He Who Sits Upon the Black Throne of Angmar/The Morgul Blade” is bound to get your fist pumping with its blackened vocals and beefy riffs, fifth track “Oak in the Mist” is a somber number, complete with mournful cleans and forlorn strings. Fell Sorcery Abounds does an admirable job of setting a tone and letting it organically evolve without losing any heft in the process. There are heroic vocals and tinges of folk metal on tracks like “In the Grip of the Dark Lord,” “The Five Will Ride at Dawn,” and “The Beacons Must Be Lit!” all of which evoke a firelit Dwarven hall after several rounds of mead. There are snarling black metal rasps and chugging, galloping guitars throughout, perhaps most notably on “Sons of the Night,” the titular “Fell Sorcery Abounds” and the previously mentioned first track. “In the Grip of the Dark Lord,” also features a surprising vocal delivery not unlike Gabriel Franco from Unto Others; a delivery that pops up across the album’s runtime. And while there are plenty Lord of the Rings-inspired lyrics, the album is a bit more thematically diverse, delving into legend, war and battle without beating you over the head with it (“it” being Grond, Morgoth’s mighty warhammer). 

The only thing that holds Fell Sorcery Abounds back is its overreliance on traditional heavy metal. Don’t get me wrong; I have a deep and abiding love from all things trad. And yet, as song after song takes yet another relatively safe jaunt into classic heavy metal territory, complete with Iron Maiden-esque riffing and power metal-adjacent vocals, the proceedings can start to feel somewhat stale. And because Morgul Blade have proven themselves so adept at merging and melding, I found myself hoping for more genre exploration with a harder edge. Considering how well this quartet mixes classic heavy metal with second-wave black metal, they certainly have it in them to embrace a more ambitious vision without sacrificing any of the hooks or earworms that help make Fell Sorcery Abounds such a fun listen.

I initially defined success for Morgul Blade quite narrowly, hoping that their LP would simply scratch my ever-worsening nerd itch. Instead, I came away genuinely impressed by what this new group has to offer. While I’m definitely fond of their name, song titles and Ring-inspired lyrics, I find I’m more impressed by their merging of light and dark, fierce and melodic, traditional and blackened; certainly more impressed than anything they do related to my precious LotR. And even though quibbles remain, I can confidently say that while Aragorn may try to slow the infection, this is one Morgul Blade whose poison I’m in no hurry to stop.

Steel Addendum ov Steel: This was originally intended to be a double review between Felagund and myself, as he loves Tolkien (way too much) and I love epic, trve metal (a reasonable, healthy amount). Sadly, the rigors of an overstuffed review schedule and a family-intensive, overstuffed holiday got the best of me and my half of the double review ended up shamefully incomplete. Put another way; Felagund called for aid, and Steel did NOT answer. I do however agree with the score given and much of what you read above. A fun but flawed piece of epic Tolkien-core.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR:  | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: No Remorse Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 26th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. You love it too much actually. We’re all kinda worried about you. – Steel
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