Wizard Doom: Olórin Plummets “Through Shadow and Flame” (Early Album Stream)
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of doom is "slow:" Moving slowly, writing slowly, songs with dragging tempos, and so on. Hailing from Illinois, Olórin exemplify this and are to some extent the antithesis of their doomy labelmates Purification from Portland, who have rapidly put out three albums since forming in 2018 and already have a fourth coming. Instead Olórin have finally finished their long-awaited first album, Through Shadow and Flame, after existing for more than ten years.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the style of music they play and the fact that most of the songs on their album clock in longer than seven minutes, Olórin’s take on doom metal is not one of brevity or fast tempos. Most reminiscent of the most stringently punishing Circle of True Doom bands from the early ‘00s (which included acts like Reverend Bizarre, The Gates of Slumber, and Orodruin), Through Shadow and Flame is a devastating journey through the gates of Khazad-dûm and beyond.
Check out the exclusive full album premiere and read an interview we conducted with the band below.
Given that this is your first full length, do you have any opening statements to talk about with the new album?
Michael Schmidt: We’re very excited to finally put this out. It’s something we’ve been working on for years. Realistically most of the songs go back eight or ten years. We’ve been trying to find the right opportunity to record this album for the last five years or more, so we’re just excited to finally put it out.
Collin Wolf: I agree. It feels good to finally get that out. At one point we had the drums and rhythm guitars recorded and we had to fully scrap that because all the files got lost, don’t know how but they did.
Collin: We had to restart the album and record it again. Been a long time coming.
Michael: And all of these songs have been written, so now that this is done, we can finally explore some newer songs. We’ve got a handful of songs already basically finished minus lyrics, so we’re ready to explore some new directions for the band, some different sounds, though still probably similar to the album.
Do the lyrics go back as far as the songs do?
Michael: Some of them do, yeah.
Collin: Most of them.
Michael: The first song on the album, "Black Chasm", that was off our original demo. We recorded it and obviously it sounds way better than the original version that we recorded with a Rock Band microphone, so that one is from like 2009 or 2010. We wrote that with the original guitarist, Tyler, and yeah, most of the songs do go back to about 2011, 2012.
Collin: We had to write lyrics for a couple of the songs. The ending song, “The White Rider,” and there’s a song called “Ringwe” that we had to write lyrics for because they used to be instrumental. Kind of just came up with them this year. That’s the newest part of this new album.
Are you going to maintain your focus on Lord of the Rings and Tolkien moving forward?
Michael: Yeah, I think so. The new album, Through Shadow and Flame, is a concept album and follows Gandalf’s battle with the Balrog from the very first scene where he’s fighting him on the Bridge of Khazad Dum all the way through the lake at the bottom, all the way the endless stair to the tower and then to his resurrection, which of course is the last song, “The White Rider.” The album has been so focused on that one scene from the movies and those 20 pages in the books that we’re excited to explore different directions. Different concepts, different stories and tales from the Lord of the Rings universe. We might even make our own.
When you started the band and had that first eponymous demo that included the original “Black Chasm” track did you have the idea of doing this concept album with that single leading it, or did that idea come later on?
Michael: Not so long ago. Once we wrote that song we started writing the songs that are on the album. I kind of thought about that, because that was probably the best song on that first demo, and was certainly the longest song and the most conceptually interesting. I thought it would make a great concept album. Maybe not immediately after we wrote it but very shortly after is when I came up with that idea of talking about that one specific scene in Lord of the Rings.
The original concept was to keep talking about stories of Gandalf exclusively, and go into the Helms Deep stuff in our next album, and then the Minas Tirith battle in the next one, and have different bits thrown in about those concepts but I think that’s a little too restrictive and conceptually to write about. It was hard enough on this first album when every other line is “shadow” and “flame” and “fire” and “black” and “white” and stuff like that. It’s too limiting to be tied down to a specific concept, as cool as that might be.
Collin: I think the challenge when we were writing the lyrics was that it sounds like a big cool idea but the source material is so brief. We were like, oh shit, we’ve gotta…
There’s a pretty huge wealth of lore spread out across Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and all of the additional background writing that Tolkien did. What made you guys zero in so much on Gandalf specifically that he can be such a big lyrically theme when there’s so much else to dig into?
Michael: Well, the band name itself is Gandalf’s original god-name, because he’s one of the Maiar, which is like a lesser god. Once we named the band that and were thinking about the concept back in the day, we kind of just thought it’d be cool and unique. No band does this and only talks about one specific thing, because how many dime a dozen Lord of the Rings bands are out there, especially in the black metal scene? I thought it’d make us more unique than every other Tolkien fan.
At the time epic doom wasn’t as popping as it is now, and we thought that too would make it more unique. Not so much anymore, but…
So you feel like the doom scene is stronger than it was when you formed?
Collin: It’s stronger than when I joined Olórin, which was about six years ago.
Michael: Probably a little more than that! But yeah. I definitely think so. Especially the Manilla Road, Candlemass, Cirith Ungol side—almost heavy metal doom, the merging of those two genres—are really out there. There’s bands like Smoulder and Eternal Champion, and there’s the new Wheel album that came out this year that’s awesome, and I’m blanking here, but…
Collin: Crypt Sermon, Sorcerer…
Michael: It seems like back when we formed the band it was a lot more of the occult rock and occult doom bands that were popular, but now those have kind of died away a little bit. Now the traditional scene is really popping, so traditional doom and epic doom stuff seems to be very in vogue, which is awesome. Hopefully we fit in well.
You had a significant amount of other early songs on the early demo material that was re-recorded for other EPs and minor releases. Is there anything left from the earliest years of the band that you want to re-record?
Collin: There’s loose talk of it. I think all of those songs on the demo would be cool to redo at some point. Not in a huge hurry I guess. I think we took the best two, “Barazinbar” and “Black Chasm” and gave them the proper attention. I personally would like to do a version of “The Úlairi “ but some of that I feel can be left to the demo.
Michael: I feel like our tone has changed so much since then. Our songwriting ability and how our band sounds have evolved since those early days. Back then we were just listening to a lot of Witchfinder General and Hour of 13 and we still have that aspect in us but I think we’ve more come into what Olórin actually sounds like. I definitely would love to redo some of those songs but at the same time I feel like they aren’t representative of how the band sounds.
Collin: What we did with “Barazinbar” was adapt that to how the band is now versus how it was then. It feels a lot more epic. It was just these little things that we did that made it more in line with our sound now. Of course I was not involved in the band when the demo came out.
Your sound now is significantly lengthier than it was then. Your longest songs in those early days don’t even touch on the average song now. Do you see that trend towards length continuing?
Michael: We have another song that I wrote five years ago or so. Usually when I write songs I write them way too long and we cut them down when the time comes to record, so the one that I have written is like 14 minutes long, and that’s obviously too long. I think most of our songs are going to be like 5 minutes plus. We might have a couple of shorter songs but we won’t have any two minute jammers or anything like that. We aren’t a punk band.
Collin: That’s “White Stallions.”
What’s next for the band now that you finally have your first album coming out?
Michael: We can’t say too much about a few things, but we’re hoping to get some shows lined up now that things are finally opening up. The guys in the band all live in different parts of Illinois and are spread out about two and a half hours away from each other. It’s hard for us to get together and jam and practice, so when we do we really have to nail it down so we don’t play a lot of shows. We’re hoping to play a few shows this year. With our label we’d love to play out in Europe somewhere but we’d have to get invited first, but that’s the first thing we want to do. We like to take things slow. Maybe next year we’ll talk about recording something new.
Collin: I think a new EP is in our future, but right now we really just want to get out there live. We were able right before the pandemic to bring the current version of Olórin live. We did a show out in Wisconsin, which was actually our best show yet. It was a tiny bar but we played to a packed house and everyone seemed to like us, and the band was at our best that we’ve ever been.
We’re looking forward to doing some new shows, and are adding a sixth live member because our new album has keyboard parts and we don’t want to take those away in the live setting. I play in a local indie rock band and our keyboardist is going to be joining us live for those parts.
Do you have anything else to talk about or promote?
Michael: Check out our new album, we’re very excited to put that out! We can’t announce shows yet but those will be coming soon.
Collin: Keep your ears to the ground, we have some stuff coming up! I also play in Fer de Lance and our album is being recorded next month, and we’re working on a new Smoulder album. All good things. Thank you for your time. We’re really excited to have this out. This has been our passion project for almost the last decade. We went through tons of lineup changes to get it where it’s out now—different singers, different bass players, different drummers—but I think Olórin is where it needs to be and ready to move on to even bigger things.
Through Shadow and Flame releases on June 29th, 2021 via Through Shadow and Flame by Olórin">Rafchild Records.