Ever since Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath first read Lord of the Rings, the road to Mordor has been paved with metal. The latest Tolkien-loving metal band comes from a Puerto Rican musician now based in Vermont, Etienne Tel’uial. His new droning symphonic metal project Skalnâ takes its name from a primitive form of Elvish that appears in Tolkien’s twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth. Safe to say, Tel’uial is not some Peter Jackson-come-lately Tolkien fan.
“The name ‘Skalnâ’ comes from primitive Elvish (Quendian), which means ‘veiled, hidden, shadowed, etc,'” Tel’uial tells us. “I chose a Tolkien name simply because they sound beautiful. I grew up with the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so bringing up Tolkien is always like returning back in time. I wanted an ‘elvish’ tone to the name, because I am obsessed with the notion of Elves. They were the first conscious creations of the Valar (the forces of nature) under Eru (the one). While the whole idea of Elves may be seen as just a mythological notion, I still think they are symbols for something real in this earth. They are the good within us. They are remnants of a time when we lived free and within nature, and not separate from it.”
Like we said, Tel’uial knows his Tolkien. But you can enjoy Skalnâ’s debut album Returning to the Flame even if you’ve never cracked The Hobbit. A heavy and beautiful combination of black metal, post-rock, and symphonic chant, it recalls avant-garde artists like Scott Walker or Xiu Xiu. Tel’uial himself calls it “romantic raw post-metal” – as good a label as any for these shifting sounds.