Caradhras - The Cruel Summit (Self-released)

Comprising remastered songs from Caradhras’ eponymous debut, The Cruel Summit sheds new light on the dirgeful purpose of that 2019 release, which bore a dedication “to my late brother, who worshipped Middle Earth.” Those familiar with The Lord of the Rings (LotR) will recognize that this blackened crust project takes its name from the Misty Mountains’ most daunting peak. It’s a risky bet to inject Tolkein worship with such an emotional affect (emphasis on the ‘emo’); most LotR homages stick to the nerdery of mythological references, and seldom dwell on the felt experience of actually opening those tomes and sharing the magic with friends. Don't get me wrong: I dabble in Battlelore’s ‘epic’ cheese from time to time, but Caradhras’s expression of fandom is more personal and touching. Solo-artist Talesin overhauls the EQ to let some angelic light into the alpine panorama, the bright trebles dappling chunky riffage like the sun-flecked clouds on the cover. Each  melody sounds as if it's been spun from bittersweet memories of play sword fights and car-ride debates over the Peter Jackson film adaptations, and while there are some tasteful piano flourishes, it’s not hard to tell that Talesin thinks his songs through on the fretboard. With almost Lemos-like agility, he’ll throw down rhythm-guitar chops in the vein of crust and screamo acts like Ictus and Suis La Lune, then suddenly work in some poppy post-hardcore arpeggiation akin to Yellowcard (listen to the first third of “The Howling Hours,” if you don’t believe me). Toss in the almost proggy sensitivity to guitar tone, and you’ve got something like a cheap Vegas wedding between Morrow and Discarnate Ails-era Haunter—without the fiery gang vocals or spiraling compositions. Those bands have resources Caradhras do not, though, and I’m just pleased to find a remaster achieving more than another ploy for money. Thankfully, The Cruel Summit does right by its original, the source material, and most important of all, its honoree.

Caradhras have only today released another bundle of remastered songs, this time with some previously unreleased material. I haven't had the chance to listen to the whole thing yet, but I'm pleased to hear that it retains some of The Cruel Summit's wistful glow.