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Medhelan - Fall Of The Horned Serpent (2016) - Review

Band: Medhelan
Album title: Fall of the Horned Serpent
Release date: 17 July 2016
Label: Deivlforst Records

01. Hail The High King
02. Land Of The Ancestors
03. A Dove Among Serpents
04. Wisdom And Fear
05. The Pyre Of Gods
06. Summon The Clans
07. The Chieftains' Last Ride
08. A Song For The Exiled
09. Bonus: Fall Of The Horned Serpent (seamless mix)

Medhelan is a name that has come up frequently over the last year. Starting out almost a decade ago, Medhelan moves fluidly between the styles of dark ambient and dungeon synth. Yet dungeon synth is surely his style of choice, and where he truly shines. I first found the works of Medhelan in fall '15 on the split with Elador, A Crown Of Ice And Stone. The attention to detail on the Medhelan half was inescapable. Searching back through his discography, I found many hidden treasures. Yet each of these albums seem to have been re-mastered and released in 2015. Some for the first time, even though they were around for years. Nocturnal Wanderings caught my attention for its darker, colder nature. Whereas, The Minstrel's Fireplace Tales seemed like the beginnings of a brilliant dungeon synth career.

Fall of the Horned Serpent is not only a journey for the protagonist, but it is a reflection of the journey of Medhelan himself. As he takes on the greats of the musical world, Medhelan seeks to distinguish himself as a front-runner in the dungeon synth genre. What better avenue to find his destiny than through Deivlforst Records. Deivlforst has become synonymous with quality. Fall Of The Horned Serpent fits squarely into the Deivlforst family. The quality is only surpassed by the vision here.

One of the main themes of Medhelan is adventure in a Celtic setting. Medhelan throughout his albums has focused on making a sound which is relatable to many people, and encompasses many interpretations. Medhelan does not seek to tell you a story, so much as he seeks to be the vessel through which your own story unfolds. Succeeding in the mission, he has made music which can be personal to a wide audience. Each fan and listener can take away from his albums what they please.

Now as part of the Deivlforst family Medhelan has surely been met with a level of constructive criticism which he hasn't faced in his past endeavors. Murgrind and Grimrik, no doubt, combed through the release in painstaking detail. Bringing boldly to the surface everything that previously made Medhelan shine. Grimrik is credited with the mastering, and it shows. Fall Of The Horned Serpent is a traditional yet brilliant addition to the annals of dungeon synth. As can be expected, the album art and packaging are spot-on. The album was released as an ultra-limited edition of 100 hand-numbered digipaks. Dan Capp re-designed the Medhelan logo, bringing it in line with the rest of the Deivlforst clan. Svart Snø contributed the album art, which at once conveys the tale, but leaves plenty of room for interpretation.

As previously stated, the album is open to interpretation, indeed this is encouraged. Each track gives the listener hints at overarching themes, but leaves the details up to one's own imagination. On "Land Of The Ancestors" there are many emotions and scenarios which seem to jump out of the music. This track seems to convey a nostalgia, not for the times of old. but for the times of youth. This is a reflection upon one's childhood, lost loves, and family honor. All the things that made the protagonist what he is, these are reflected upon here. As the track progresses, there is a feeling of adventure and hope which takes over the emotional output. As if the father has offered the family sword to his son, who is preparing to venture out in search of the Horned Serpent. These are reflections, a son looking fondly upon his lands and loved ones one final time. Maybe the last time ever, so he soaks it all in, slowly. This is of course my interpretation. You can take the title and sounds in whichever direction you please.

Other tracks like "Wisdom And Fear" focus on darker scenarios. This track is slower and more melancholic. A time of reflection, "Wisdom And Fear" seems to depict the protagonist learning the mysteries of the world. The benevolent as well as the evil forces which stir within nature and man. He must learn to use these to his own ends if he is to complete the journey and take control of his destiny.

Medhelan seems to have placed himself firmly into the spotlight with Fall Of The Horned Serpent. Deivlforst Records taking Medhelan under their wing only further secures his place among the greats of the genre. Fall Of The Horned Serpent seems to be the first serious and official release by Medhelan. Where, in the past, he tested various styles within his genres of choice, Fall Of The Horned Serpent has no ambiguity. It is a clearly defined project, which has been crafted and molded in painstaking detail to resonate among fans of the dungeon synth genre. With his focus on traditional dungeon synth and open interpretations, Medhelan has released an album which is a brilliant starting point for new-comers to dungeon synth. Yet the years of practice and preparation have helped to deliver an album which will stand tall even to the most critical of listeners. A clear high point in the career of Medhelan, and a sign of things to come.

Written by: Michael
Rating: 8/10