Johnny Gallo may be the best active doom metal guitarist right now. I’ve been tracking the guy’s movements closely the last few years after initially being introduced to Orodruin, who are easily among my favorite bands of the ‘00s (yes, they formed in the late ‘90s, but the bulk of their material was a bit later!). Johnny is a busy guy, and every couple of years another new album comes out that he played some varying amount of instruments on. Blizaro is a drug-induced psychedelic warrior that channels his love of old Italian doom, and John Gallo is a heavier and less rocking take on the same influences- but Orodruin, until they vanished off the face of the planet around 2011, was always more suffocating and gloomy than his other bands.
Now Orodruin is back, and is jarringly less heavy. Before, the riffs carried a lot of the heft and groove of the more oppressive bands in doom metal, with heavy atmosphere via organs and riffs that split bones. Though you can still tell that it’s the same band, the heaviness is more from huge buildups and from the interplay of the instruments than from big guitar parts- Cathedral versus Judas Priest, to quote a friend.
Once I got past the difference in tone, the quality contained within Ruins of Eternity began to reveal itself. Each song is monstrously catchy and memorable, and while the songwriting is simple, the compositions are extremely effective. Bluesy licks will play against slow Iommian riffing to great effect whenever a part threatens monotony, and the guitars pick great moments to fall slightly out of touch with each other, each little detail adding another post to find and wonder at with repeated listens. The dual leads that occasionally supplant the riffs are all really, really, cool as well, perfectly bridging different verse riffs or mood swings in songs.
Vocals, drums, and bass are all performed skillfully by longtime Orodruin frontman Mike Puleo, whose approach to each is a mirror of the band’s music itself; he never gets technical or tries to stand out, but his playing and singing match the music so perfectly that I can’t imagine another performance on the album. In particular I love his vocal performance on Ruins of Eternity; Mike is emotional and earnest without sacrificing power, and his varied approach- ranging from a nasal warble to strident and powerful to sensitive in just a few minutes at a time- far surpasses anything else he’s done with Orodruin in the past. Mike’s talent for writing vocal lines plays a large part in the catchiness of the record, and it’s impossible not to leave the album with more and more lyrics stuck in your head, which is a talent more doom metal could benefit from.
Another point of interest is the album’s stellar production, which leaves everything audible without sacrificing power or charm. The song order is also extremely well picked- the relative speed and aggression of the gorgeous “War on the World” breaks up the slower pieces it’s sandwiched between, serving as the crescendo of Side A while also showing some of the band’s range. Ruins of Eternity is an intimidating forty seven minutes long, but it flows by far faster than it should, leaving plenty of room for relistening, even back to back.
Is Ruins of Eternity as good as Orodruin’s first record, Epicurean Mass? It’s just too early to say, particularly since I’ve been hailing that as the best doom metal album of the ‘00s for the last few years. But I can definitely say that I can’t stop listening to Ruins, and I hope that Orodruin doesn’t take another sixteen years for a follow-up this time. It’s great seeing them getting proper label support this time via the always-excellent Cruz Del Sur Music and I hope it’s a sign that Orodruin will finally blow up (and get some proper vinyl issues of Epicurean Mass and In Doom!) because they deserve it.
Follow Orodruin on Facebook here. Listen to Ruins of Eternity here, and buy it at the same link (North America) or here (Europe). Support doom, and support one of the best bands in metal, finally returned to us.