The first time I came into contact with the trio of musicians behind Aardia was with the album Embraced by Fear released in 1999. The album had quite a proto-synthetic sound to it with digital choirs and static drums that reminded me of good old computer games such as Warcraft and Hexen. They continued on and made some soundtracks to various Swedish b-movies such as Die Zombiejäger and later got signed up with Waerloga of Za Frûmi. 12 years later Conquest of the Ancient Halls emerges from the depths of darkness and the trinity have come quite far in their journey to perfection.
Aardia (SE) is a project quite hard to describe since the music on Conquest of the Ancient Halls varies heavily from bombastic battle music with heavy drums and pulsing brass orchestration to songs of a more serene quality such as Angel of Misfortune. Take one part neoclassical orchestrations and mix it down with a large dose of ambience and high fantasy and you are almost there. With this album Aardia have created a fully functional and pretty damn good soundtrack to a short movie that so far does not exist and it is a shame really since it is quite a competent piece of work. The general feeling of the album is that of high adventure and fantastic journeys through magical kingdoms and dark domains. It blows life in whatever dark fantasies you hold in your mind and teases it with its suggestive and well-orchestrated music.
This genre of music has a small flaw in my book. It instantly competes with all the great original soundtracks out there and as such it has a lot to prove if it wants to compete for a place on the pedestal of titans such as Basil Poledouris, Jeremy Soule and John Howard. However, Aardia still manages to pique my interest by delivering some truly great tracks and an extremely wide range of compositions. There is always a deeper meaning embedded and songs such as Legion of Darkness and The Conquest feels like songs taken out of the battle of helms deep or the fight in the beginning of Gladiator while The Prophecy brings your mind to wide grassland and wind that rustles the leaves in the trees at the edge of verdant fields.
Conquest of the Ancient Halls is a good album that delivers a competent but somewhat bland mix of songs laden with fantastic atmosphere. The composition and orchestration of the songs are really good and I love the whole atmosphere that surrounds each and every song. In the end the album contains a lot of good music yet never really goes beyond that, the songs never feel entirely original and fail to truly sweep me away. I would however recommend Aardia for those looking for some good music to use and abuse during gatherings of role and/or board gaming or for those lonely nights reading sword and sorcery novels in the dark. Aardia have a strong foundation to build upon and hopefully I’ll hear more from my fellow countrymen real soon.
Written by: Skarsnik
Label: Waerloga Records / Format: CD / Cat. # Waer018
02. The Prophecy
03. Legion of Darkness
04. Angel of Misfortune
05. Halls of Insanity
06. The Conquest
07. Plains of Sorrow
08. Ancient Halls (Version II)