MOONGATES GUARDIAN — Let Horse Be Bridled, Horn Be Sounded! (review)

MOONGATES GUARDIAN — Let Horse Be Bridled, Horn Be Sounded! album cover Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Although they only released their debut album in 2014, Russian atmospheric black metal duo Moongates Guardian are already on their sixth full-length studio album. Titled Let Horse Be Bridled, Horn Be Sounded! (2017), the album provides a black metal musical journey through the band's usual Tolkien themes, but comes complete with a little surprise: a black metal version of Blind Guardian's classic ballad, Lord of the Rings.

I don't usually go much in for extreme metal versions of Blind Guardian songs, especially not their ballads (which are some of the best in the power metal business) but I have to admit, I'm pleasantly surprised by the take Moongates Guardian have put on the song. Specifically they're covering the version from The Forgotten Tales (1996) compilation rather than the original from Tales from the Twilight World (1990), no doubt because the original actually featured a lyrical error due to Hansi Kürsch singing 'gnomes' instead of 'dwarves' at one point (something I'm sure they'll never live down). The song translates pretty well although it is a little weird listening to it with Alexey Lapshov's growl, though his growl is pretty clear for the genre, so you can still follow the lyrics easily enough. I've singled the song out because not only is it an unusual choice for a black metal band to cover, but also because it's probably the most interesting track on Let Horse Be Bridled, Horn Be Sounded!

When performing their original material, Moongates Guardian have a sound that's in the same ballpark area as the better known Summoning, a band who are clearly a major influence on them since their previous album was a tribute release to that band. We're talking atmospheric black metal with a strong symphonic synth presence and some influences from dungeon synth music. It's a competent album from start to finish, with the songs sprinkled with dialogue from Tolkien's writing that I'm sure fans will recognise (you'll at least know the name Frodo when you hear it I'm sure, even if you're not a fan, though I suppose that would also put you outside this album's target audience). There's nothing wrong with what the band have made here per se, but the issue for me is that the whole Tolkien atmospheric black metal thing has been done to death (thanks in no small part to Summoning themselves) so when that Blind Guardian cover hits at the sixth track, it's actually like a breath of fresh air and ultimately is the only one of the album's nine songs that sticks with me upon conclusion. It's a pleasant forty-one minute trip through Middle-Earth, just not one that's going to inspire many repeat visits.
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