Here's another submission but one that surprised me. Tol Morwen are a five piece from Italy with no full length releases, even though they formed a decade ago in 2014. This is their second EP and everything that I see suggests that they play melodic death metal. So I had expectations and track one, Berserkgang, met them pretty well. It's a good song and it's played well too, with a technical edge. The production is strong and each instrument, including the voice, is strong too but nothing really departs from what the genre does. It's merely melodic death metal done very well. No surprises thus far.
Unchained continues in the same vein but then escalates into something more. If Berserkgang had anything else except melodic death, it was the occasional hint at an older form of heavy metal and that's here too. Phil's drums remain fast throughout but the rest of the song more and more into older forms. I heard a lot of doom/death in the guitar lines, the solos are old school heavy metal in the Randy Rhoads vein and there's a slow doomy wrap up. Suddenly there's a lot more here than a simple tag of melodic death metal suggests.
So Unchained surprised me, but so did how the album continued from there. Ragnar wraps up with more melodic death but there's a lot of old school heavy metal in there too, especially during the slower midsection. Before that, there's a heck of a lot to discover and I'd be fascinated to see how Tol Morwen can spin that versatility over a full length album. And yes, I'd be interested to see how it gets labelled, because I don't buy into the band continuing to be seen as just one genre.
I keep coming back to Unchained, but Fate of Gods is better still. It starts slow and atmospheric in the pouring rain, a prowling bass from Thorval introducing Metallica-esque power chords. This is a neat and elegant way to introduce a song, even if it's not one of the epics of the album at only five and a half minutes. It feels like prog metal, even before whispering vocals and a complex dynamic play lead into a roaring escalation. There's a lot here: interesting changes, plenty of dynamics and vocals from Dökk that grow and develop and play with mood. The solos are wonderful and so is the Iron Maiden riffage, presumably courtesy of rhythm guitarist Erik.
If you're expecting something different again from Terror of Rome by this point, then you won't be disappointed. There's a Viking metal sound on this one, though it doesn't skimp on the fast paced melodic death. There's more of that elegant guitarwork, with a further excellent solo from Bjorn and a tasty outro from guitar and bass. It almost makes it a little surprising that Ragnar wraps up in a purer vein, but it works as a bookend to Berserkgang and prompts us to just start the EP over again.
I'm calling this an EP because that's what it seems to be marketed as and there are only five tracks on offer. However, none of these songs is short, Terror of Rome the shortest at not much shy of five minutes, so there's more music to enjoy here than there has been on some full length albums that I've reviewed lately, even without a separate intro track. And hey, it's notably longer than Reign in Blood, so it's a substantial EP. I definitely want a full length, but I'm very happy with this one in the meantime. Thanks, folks!