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[11th November 2013]
[Tridroid Records]

01. The Dimholt Road
02. Treebread
03. Lady of the Goldenwood
04. Watcher in the Water
05. Caradhras
06. Nine Riders
07. The Dead Marshes
08. Where the See Meets the Land
09. Mirkwood
10. Lord of Argmar

The work of Canadian solo artist Vultyrous, Ringbearer is a project whose music is was written in tribute/with inspiration from The Lord of the Rings; the epic fantasy trilogy from J.R.R Tolkien. The album name, The Way is Shut, is a quote from the third installment, whereupon the heroes take a road kept by the dead: “The way is shut. It was made by those who were dead, and the dead keep it. The way is shut”. They ignore that warning, of course. This album was not made by the dead, but it sure sounds like the dead keep it. Journey on down this dark mountain road.

The Way Is Shut, despite looking like an album full of heavy metal and sporting a Big Dumb Skull on the album album cover, is in fact an orchestral/dark ambient soundtrack sort of album, which makes it a bit more difficult to really judge. Calling it orchestral is almost a bit misleading, as those elements are fairly minimal, limited to certain tracks and sections. Other songs are basically just dark ambiance, meant perhaps to provide a background for a Lord of the Rings themed party. Then there are songs such as “Nine Riders” which drip with gothic mood – or whatever the Tolkienian equivalent is.

Nine Riders” might be the top song on here. The organs are absolutely lovely, and the phantasmal voice that comes floating through is just as nice. But wait; the song is hiding some metal after all! A bit of black metal sensibility floats around, with distorted guitars and blast beats, but they do stay muted, and towards the back of the mix, with the scrapes and howls of things unearthly surrounding it. It ends up almost feeling like a symphonic black metal song; something from Limbonic Art perhaps.

In complete contrast, “Where The Sea Meets the Land” is a very pretty song, with sounds of the waves, seagulls, and a really pretty line of strings moving throughout it. The drums that enter halfway through sort of ruin the delicate tone of the song, but they do add more intensity to the faint, floaty keyboard part that is bubbling over and under everything else.

Opening track, “The Dimholt Road” is probably the most diverse song on here though, it goes through several little movements, dark, ethereal, and menacing. Good stuff.

The production on this release is really well done. The natural sounds, such as the wind, the birds, the crackle of the fire, or the dripping of water off the loamy cavern wall, are quite realistic, sounding as if one is standing right next to the source of the sound itself. These are also panned in the mix, which just feels right; it serves to make them feel more convincing. Other instruments and sounds are mixed with different levels of panning, which give the entire album a really nice blend. It feels cold, yet entirely embracing, and is one of those albums that wraps around your mind and draws you deep inside.

The Way Is Shut is a really dark, slightly classically infused ambient album dripping with cavernous dread and mired in deathly atmospherics. It does feel a little bit Tolkien-ish, but mostly it could stand as any dark ambient album. The production is really nice, and the sounds used are certainly slightly hair-raising. There are even a couple songs on here that are really worth listening to on their own. All in all, this is worth a listen or two, especially for anyone who enjoys more ambient and soundtrack types of music. For anyone expecting metal, maybe stick with Summoning instead.

Best songs: “Nine Riders” “Lord of Angmar” “Watcher in the Water


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