Battle Hymns is a new black metal recording from the United States that creates a rich and swirling mood of epic conflict, without resorting to either overt dissonance or shapeless white noise. Progressive in both technique and internal song evolution, Uruk succeed in uniting most useful, formative influences on the sub-genre, from the classical melodicism of Mercyful Fate to the choppier proposition of early Absu, the intuitive placement and proportion of Dissection, but always buttressed upon the fluid, tremolo-picking action and consonant sense of second wave Norwegian greats.
The list of references can go on for some ways yet but through it all, Uruk emerge as something more substantial than also-rans. Excepting the needlessly prolonged mid-section on ‘Saturnian‘, Uruk appear a band with very clear notions of where they want to take their music; each of the five pieces on Battle Hymns is fully self-contained and built with individuality, and to that end the band is unafraid of introducing melodic flourishes otherwise uncommon to black metal.
And yet egregious or gratuitous are words one would be wary of associating with these flourishes, so tastefully are they subsumed within the greater narrative. What stands out as constant is a kind of humility greater than impulsive abandon; Uruk submit themselves willingly to the very lineage of heavy metal, and to anyone with an appreciation of such things, this acknowledgment can be sensed amply in how the lead guitar rides as chief voice over a stately chord progression or how the ride cymbal flits eternal in ways suggestive to our internal, inexplicable body rhythms. In how an unsuspecting lick lurks around the corner and acts as agent of primal release, even. Beyond these signifiers, however, Uruk have real stories of vigor and spirit and adventure to tell and I, as a listener, find myself immersed in the worlds they create with such rare potency.