J.R.R. Tolkien’s legacy on this planet has been profound. For one, all the cool names he came up with have inspired tons of cool band names. And what location is more metal than Mount Doom, the enormous volcano in the heart of Mordor? In Sindarin, Tolkien’s fictional language of the Elves, the volcano has two nicknames. One of them is Amon Amarth, “mountain of fate.” That band, of course, didn’t write about dragons or dwarves or rings, but vikings and Norse mythology. The subject of today’s investigation bears the other nickname for Mount Doom: Orodruin, “fiery mountain.” And the subject of their Candlemassian doom metal? Death and the human condition. Can we get a Tolkien-titled band screech about Hobbits for a change?
Regardless, Orodruin know what they’re doing. And they should: the band has been around for 20 years. Yet Ruins of Eternity is only their second album, after dropping their debut all the way back in 2003! 16 years is a long time, worse than what any Tool fan has gone through. Which makes it all the more surprising that rather than the epic piece of boundless ambition you might expect, Ruins of Eternity is a rather humble affair. Stately, gracious riffs settle on a steady mid-pace through much of the album, with variety introduced in bursts of NWOBHM gallops and funeralean slowness. Texturally, the album eschews thick layering or other trickery: this is as dry, direct and bare-bones as epic doom gets, relying on musical craftsmanship and not much else.
And it does work. Ruins of Eternity is the definition of solid. The riffs are sturdy and evocative, delivering on ominous atmosphere and big hooks. The drums don’t spazz out with fancy rolls and fills but keep the pace, steady like a rock. When the music does speed up, the same workmanlike attitude is displayed, and Orodruin prove to do gallops as professionally as they do their epic doom. The final chapter of “Into the Light of the Sun” stands out in particular, though that is partially because it sounds so very Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden, especially the dual guitar harmonies. Vocalist, bass player, and drummer Mike Puleo (good luck doing all three live, Mike!) has a voice reminiscent of Di’Anno too, as well as Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), though his vocals don’t have the same rock-steady determination as the instruments, and his timbre is a hair too thin to project enough power to wow me. However, he does have an earnestness that helps project the gloom of the lyrics.
The consequence of playing it safe, however, is that the album doesn’t really stand out in any way. It’s epic doom by the book, and despite that occasional detour to NWoBHM, it won’t have any surprises for anyone who’s heard more than two albums in this niche. Even the production is solid, stopping well short of amazing. The bass has a lovely ring, but the vocals are mixed a bit high, and the guitar sound is rather stock. “Good but not great” seems to be the mantra here, as it applies to every element and every track on the record. Ruins never transcends that level of quality, but not ever dips below it. As such, it’s an album that is thoroughly pleasant to listen to, and some riffs or vocal lines may even glue themselves to the inside of your skull for a while, but it’s stuck in the deluge of great material this year has already dumped upon us.
I may repeat myself, but Ruins of Eternity really is a solid album. It has a number of neat moments, good riffs, a rhythm section that works, and a production without any major issues. You’ll have a good time listening to it, provided epic doom is your jam, and probably won’t regret purchasing it. After 16 years between albums, and 7 years without a release of any kind, I can understand the Orodruin’s desire to take it easy, and they demonstrated to be solid musicians who know how to put an album of merit together. But I hope that next time they will feel ready to begin taking risks again, because I get the feeling there’s a much better album in this trio yet.