There are so many aspects of Tolkien I enjoy, including collecting as much Tolkien-based music as I can find. Still, despite my having been a music tutor and psychomusicology major in the distant past, the thought of doing LOTR-related music reviews didn't cross my mind until a couple of days ago, when I finally purchased the MP3 version of the title above. It's a knockout.
There have been many attempts at making 'authentic' Middle-Earth music, but this is one of the best. Described by the creators as "the fully realised music of an ancient, lost civilization," it was recorded over a period of seven years in what can only be regarded as an intense labor of love. A deep academic study of Tolkien's words, languages, and his works as a whole is very apparent throughout these compositions.
Absent the booklet which no doubt contains crucial information, I can still try to describe this awesome music. First, there is a preponderance of excellent vocal and choral pieces, including "Namárië," which is basically a Latin mass sung in Elvish-- stunning!
In addition to the most professional-sounding vocalists I've heard in awhile, many period instruments are flawlessly played here to create pieces which sound alternately medieval and modern. A fascinating and utterly mesmerizing work titled "Elo Elleth" is a world music combination of medieval English and Indian folk music with soft rock, all played on period instruments and accompanied by strong percussion.
"The Longbottom Leaf" is Hobbit music for sure, but of a way different calibre than the norm. Unlike more common depictions, it is neither cute nor particularly beautiful; it is instead the serious, no-nonsense instrumental music of a determined people.
"Beware the Wolf" is perhaps the darkest piece on the album, although "The Silver Bowl" gives it a run for its money. It refers to Carcharoth, the Wolf of Angband, and is sung as a folk ballad with medieval influence.
"Creation Hymn" is a lovely piece using medieval overtones but incorporating some modern chords; however, to me, it feels a little too lighthearted to fully represent the creation of Arda.
"The Battle of Evermore" is a profound rearrangement of the famous Led Zeppelin song which intrigued me as a kid, but ultimately left me baffled. I still don't particularly connect with the song, but this version of it is an improvement.
"The Evening Star" is the star of the entire album, and is all but guaranteed to produce the sweetest of tears. This crushingly beautiful, sad song has haunting lyrics and a lovely, stately melody, and refers to the flight of Eärendil, the Evening Star. While perfect for Elwing and Eärendil, it makes sure to cover all of Tolkien's characters who have lost dear friends, family and lovers to the Sundering Seas. It works beautifully for Frodo and Sam, and it is so applicable to our own lives as well. This beauty is easily worth the price of the entire album and went immediately onto my permanent playlist.
And finally, the simple, rustic instrumental "Terra Beata" takes us down from those unsustainable heights and back to daily life.
Altogether this gem of an album comprises 19 generous tracks for over an hour of satisfying listening, and is available as an instant download for $8.99 on Amazon. Alternatively, single tracks can be purchased for 99 cents each.
NOTE: When I purchased the album, the full download kept giving me a 'network error.' I was able to circumvent this glitch by downloading each track separately from my Amazon music library.