Myths, legends, fairytales and science fiction are often sources of inspiration for progressive rock musicians. One of the most popular subjects is the work of the famous British author J.R.R. Tolkien. This double album recorded by the Italian formation Ainur, is another example in an endless row. On Lay Of Leithian the band has decided to perform on a large scale with three storytellers, twelve different vocalists, a symphony orchestra, many musicians and a varied instrumentation.
The music on the 25 tracks is a dynamic blend of classical music and rock in which the atmospheres change frequently. You can enjoy classical orchestrations in the title track and twanging acoustic guitar, violin, harp and a sensitive electric guitar solo in Coming To Doriath. Daeron’s Betrayal contains, amongst others, slide guitar and a bombastic Hammond-organ. Hirilorn has a mid-tempo with solos on violin, piano, acoustic guitar and organ and Towards Nargothrond has propulsive guitar riffs, fat MiniMoog synthesizer flights, powerful vocals and a fiery guitar solo. In The Hound Of Valinor the atmosphere changes from mellow, with acoustic guitar and violin, to an exciting acceleration with heavy guitar riffs, fat MiniMoog-runs, brass and high-pitched female vocals. In Carcharoth we hear sensational work on the Hammond and the MiniMoog with propulsive guitar riffs. Hell’s Awakening has an exciting blend of classical music and rock with violins and flashy MiniMoog-flights, tender grand piano and dreamy vocals, but also fat guitar riffs, strong flute play and a dynamic rhythm-section.
The final epic composition of almost ‘twenty’ minutes, starts promising with many vocalists, wonderful grand piano and moving electric guitar, but after nine minutes there’s a complete silence until the last thirty seconds. Then we hear some narration and the song is over! It’s a disappointing musical idea to let prog heads listen to such a long silence!
While listening to this double album my attention sometimes slipped away due to the fact that some pieces tend to sound alike. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the music, because of the tension between the mellow parts with classical instruments and the heavy and bombastic parts. In addition, I enjoyed the exciting work on guitar and the vintage keyboards like the Hammond-organ and the MiniMoog-synthesizer.
***+ Erik Neuteboom (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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