As much as I love Summoning, and as much as I expect a lot of atmospheric black metal bands to take up their mantle when paying tribute to Tolkien's Middle Earth through the medium, I'm happy that there only a precious few who attempt to copy them so closely.
Carn Dûm, a German band which takes its name from the capital city of Angmar, with members of better known groups like Narvik and Crimson Moon, employs a more traditional brand of black metal to explore the subject matter, rather than the sweeping horns and keys, and bombastic, ritualistic percussion driven style of the Austrian masters. Judging by the cover artwork, which I really enjoy for its stark simplicity, you'd expect a mix of threatening trad BM with perhaps a thread of forlorn majesty coursing through its veins, and that is pretty much exactly what they've nailed down here for their eponymous debut.
This is a rather dry sounding, conventional framework which relies heavily on tremolo picked melodic passages which often layer in fluid harmonies against the harsh bark of the vocalist, and the subdued but mechanical precision of the drumming that sounds like an army constantly on the march off in the background. So many queues here that recall the 90s, when bands were really starting to round out the rougher edges of Bathory, Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone to create a more accessible strain which would prove soothing to a metal listener's ears, but still incorporate the trademark rasping and rawness. This record isn't terribly dirty sounding, and that's often to its detriment, but the emphasis is focused almost entirely on the guitars and vocals, the latter of which don't really have a distinct edge to them when up against so many other snarlers and screamers. Bass is present with some root notes and really simple lines, but rarely more than that and it often makes the presentation feel a little too straightforward, reliant on those melodies...
Which are, to be fair, hit or miss. There were times I was listening through tracks like "Morgul - Metamorphose des Seins" and felt the pangs of nostalgia stirring the emotional glands for times when things were simpler and you were just so pleased to even hear someone pull off a harmony in this niche. But the issue I take is that so much of the Carn Dûm riffing is predictable. Repeat a few lines, then transform them to a brief blasted sequence, and then back again. There are some somber and poignant components throughout the record, and the deeper into it I fell I thought that the material was growing stronger, like "Wandelnd im Dammerlich" with its clean guitar plucking, or the more martial and mournful "Marsch auf Fornost" which at times felt like it was brute, martial black/punk metal until the fell melodies started cascading about the track, airing it all out. This is not a band without some variation, employing soaring clean vocals or sparse atmospherics, and there is potential if they can enrich the quality of the rhythm guitars further and maybe improve the rhythm section. But where I wanted to face off against a Nazgul rider here, I got maybe a goblin warband at best, nothing to scoff at but nothing too imposing either.
Verdict: Indifference [6.5/10]