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While in this day and age, putting such an emphasis on uplifting, more ambient-styled keyboards with mid-tempo black metal tremolo as a backdrop is fairly common and perhaps that style is even becoming more saturated with bands than actual black metal is, this album was released in nineteen-ninety-fucking-seven. Add the RPG-soundtrack edge to the sound and the song development almost slower than Burzum's and the fact that the second wave was only really beginning to come to an end and you have to wonder: what the fuck did people think of this back then?
Dol Guldur is the epitome of Summoning's sound. It is perhaps the release where the elements at play characteristic to Summoning have manifested themselves with the most prominence; the motivation to distance themselves from black metal and come into their own was high and the ideas given birth by Minas Morgul are fully explored, and it's the first album I think people getting into Summoning should check out because it's probably the most accurate overarching representation of what they sound like. Right away, when the low, ominous keyboards of "Angbands Schmieden" kick in, with the additional layers slowly giving the music a more defined rhythm, there's already a distinctly different feeling from the preceding albums already setting in. The drums kick in, and they set the tone for the rest of the album; a triumphant marching rhythm that benefits the overall package greatly, giving strength to the harmonies and propelling the song forward constantly. Really, the music necessitates it; without the kind of rhythms present here the music would lose a huge amount of its personality, for sure. It's pretty much impossible to air-drum to this; the multitude of drum hits just wrap themselves around every corner of your ears and just kind of glue you to your chair. Protector is just a "little drummerboy at heart" as Silenius once put it.
This is the first leg of the journey; there's moments of adventure and glory scattered throughout, but the majority of it is a forest of endlessly similar scenes. It's long, repetitive and occasionally taxing on one's patience but it works because of how genuine and carefully composed it is. It's cheese, but it's some of the world's most finest crafted cheese. Most of the album's consistency is driven by the tremolo riffing, but at about 3 minutes in on "Nightshade Forests" we see some of the first embryos of what would become Summoning's amazing, idiosyncratic intricate riff style. It's like a black metal riff, but it has more notes and it's more...fluid than black metal riffs are, especially compared to what they had been showcasing before this point. It's a great riff and although they'd definitely present this sort of thing in a much more fully realized form on subsequent albums but this makes what had up until that point been one of Summoning's more mediocre songs a highlight of the album. Summoning doesn't really write many bad riffs, but as a caveat of the more drawn-out, keyboard-focused song structures the riffs can sometimes wear thin after a while and they're much more sparse than they would be on their later efforts. The synths, on the other hand, are much more elaborate and plentiful in melodies- sometimes many building on top each other simultaneously, giving several layers of harmony intertwined with the drums, giving you something new to come back to every time you listen.
This was the first Summoning album that had only eight songs- the two albums before that each had eleven, and every album after this one had eight (except Stronghold, which had nine); that sort of signals a pattern in their songwriting and focus that would manifest itself for years to come, and another pattern emerges on this album as well: the two dudes from Austria really do have a knack for writing mind-blowing closing tracks, and "Over Old Hills" may indeed be the best moment of the album. The final song is usually a slower "ballad" sort of deal, like the emergence to the destination at the end of the journey at sunrise; slow encapsulating and vast. Their uncompromising theatrical nature and repetition is taken to its (il)logical extreme, and I don't know how but it combines all that with some weird vocoder effect and it fuckin' works, dammit! Summoning are at their best when they're at their cheesiest, and luckily they're not self-conscious enough to not be cheesy all the time. Despite how ultimately essential of a record this is if you have any interest at all in Summoning and how many great moments and tracks it has on it, this is far from their best album. It takes a little while to grow on you, because it really is an exhausting listen, and at the end of the day, they'd end up doing better things as they matured the sound further. This is the first leg of the journey, and much has been explored and accomplished through the treacherous and draining foray; the real adventures and victories are on the horizon. In but a couple of years, the true potential of what could be done with this new approach would be revealed. The only piece left in the puzzle is those golden riffs...
After watching the trilogy of The Lord Of The Rings, I decided to pop in my sole Summoning album I own, "Dol Guldur", and give it another listen. How much more I appreciated this album I cannot say in words. I never read any Tolkien books nor was I too interested until recently but I did own "Dol Guldur" and listened to it rarely. This time that I did actually sit and listen, I came away with completely different feelings and a total understanding of the lyrics and music. Even the constant repetition became one with me and I understood, oh yes my precious, I understood.
Silenius and Protector are two musicians I am really unfamiliar with even with owning an Abigor album, I don't know too much about them, but their work is not too shabby. The intro to "Dol Guldur" which is "Angbands Schmieden" has a very sinister undertone amidst the folksy keys with chiming bells sounding as a prelude to a huge battle. The drum machine kicks in with a steady beat and prepares one for the journey about to be presented. As this slowly dies out we are slammed(can't emphasize enough)with a blasting freezing riff containing lightning speed tremolo with sinister laughter over it. The vocals are the key to these tracks where you figure they'd mostly be overshadowed with the synths but they aren't, at all.
The lyrics here are found in The Two Towers with Smeagal: "Cold Be Hand, heart and bone and cold be my sleep under stone...never more shall I rest on a snowy bed, never...til the sun has failed and the moon is dead." This made me smile. The next song is "Elfstone" with glaring trumpets and a repetitious riff as a return or a searching of, you guessed it, the Elfstone. This is one of my favorite tracks as it contains the best line ever spoken before a glorious death in The Two Towers: "Now For Wrath, Now For Ruin...And A Red Nightfall." The repetition is the key and with the riff(s) and synth, you will not fall asleep, I promise.
Next we come to "Khazad Dum" with a very slow and long introduction but once the drum(s) kicks in you will be anxiously awaiting. The opening riff is ablaze with fire as we are transported to Middle Earth after the Men and Elves battled Sauron the first time where Isildur's sword was broken by Sauron's foot and the Ring Of Power was taken. There are many times during this song where it stops to just a synth but again, no nodding out or when the guitars return you will shit yourself. Now, we come to Kor, with it's valiant organ throughout and bloody good repetitive vocals. A very good song, and also the last ten minute track on "Dol Guldur".
"Wyrmvater Glaurung" is an instrumental that sounds like the "Moonlight Sonata" on acid with a totality to it that would suit an industrial album perfectly. The clanging of the bells is very dramatic and besides being the obvious filler, I liked it very much. "Unto a long glory..." starts out on an ominous feel but once the vocals start, we are treated to the familiarity of the above previous formula. "Mourn not over much, mighty was the fallen" are the eight words from the chorus which will stick in your mind from "Unto a long glory...". Again, the riffs are present and fast and accompany the synths well. The drum(s) are slower here but have a perfect steadiness to them.
"Over old hills" is a sort of a reminisce track of someone's lost utopia or childhood. The synth here starts out as piano tinged and the vocals very slow. Then, once again, that faster than light riff to a medium paced song starts and we are thrown into a perfect track to end "Dol Guldur" on. The synths here go back and forth from piano to horns then to strings. "Over old hills" is definitely my favorite track along with "Elfstone" and "Nightshade Forests". If you don't own this album yet, pick it up. If you haven't read Tolkien or seen The Lord Of The Rings films and listen to "Dol Guldur", it might not make much sense, but it won't take away from the joy of this 1996 masterpiece. Enjoy my precious.
It's pretty hard to explain exactly why this album- or any of the following Summoning releases- is any good. Minas and Lugburz are both fairly fine albums full of interesting black metallish riffing, and while you'd expect a symphonic turn to be for the worst, it seems that adding a heap of extra synths and fruity (loops?) drums was one of the best things Summoning ever did. Indeed, Summoning are a strange band in this respect. Everything about this album- this band- should fail- the repetition makes Sunn O))) blush, the synth quality makes you wish they used Varg's MIDI stuff instead- but it's just so good. It's a fine line these guys tread here, and to be honest I'm amazed that they haven't released a real stinker of an album yet.
Still, while I imagine there will be a time when the sound that these two Austrians have built comes crashing around them, it hasn't happened yet. It almost seems like perhaps Summoning sound good because of, not in spite of their limitations.
And that's particularly evident in this album. Probably more so then any other Summoning album, there's one formula here that's plugged at relentlessly. Incredibly simple drum machine action, heaps of snare and kick- and always somewhere around 90bpm- three or so good quality but simple (and way back in the mix) guitar riffs per song (the songs average 10 minutes each, by the way)- and a heap of bleating, machine like synths establishing some vaguely medieval/ominous/melancholic themes. The synths, for one, offer a lot of comparisons to Zelda, Golden Sun and other J-RPG soundtracks.Not the most promising combination, then.
...So why am I giving it 90%? One reason that comes to mind is that the themes that get repeated a multitude of times are pretty solid- there's Khazad Dum's ominous medieval brass stuff coupled with quite a dramatic, epic riff, the strange, stilted melancholy of Kor which suggests an aftermath of some terrible battle (I imagine the theme of it's actually quite different, but it sounds like that anyway). Over old Hills is probably the strangest tune here; basically sounding fairly similar to the others but with some interesting, pulsing synth action making the whole thing sound a bit odd and otherworldly. It is repetitive, yes, but there are worse things that can be repeated. At least these guys aren't doing ten minute deathcore workouts, and that counts for something.
Still, that doesn't explain the high mark. Any other reasons, then, as to why this is good? Nothing terribly convincing; it seems that my reasons are fairly similar to Mushroom's comments below. I put it on at an extremely loud volume, and when the first proper song comes in my mouth falls open, I relax my muscles almost to the point of shitting my pants, and I then proceed to sit there for an hour or so (or more, as I'll often line up a few Summoning albums in a row). What initially starts as mild irritation at the intro track and the fairly lame introduction to Elfstone (there is no excuse for herald-like trumpets, ever) soon turns into a mind numbing, otherworldly bliss, and by the time the epic strains of Khazad Dum come on you're just totally hooked (and headbanging to the really stirring, massive main riff that tune has).
The best way to sum up this album is "far, far more then the sum of its' parts". There's two ways of looking at it; either Summoning stumbled upon this formula; unwittingly shitting out a diamond- or alternatively, Summoning knew exactly what they were doing. Based on the other albums by these guys, I'd say it's the latter. Yep, Dol Guldur shouldn't be any good- and I guess in some ways it isn't- but it delivers a listening experience that few other albums can compete with. Get it, just be prepared to give it some time.
On paper, this album is a pile of junk. The amount of repetition borders on the ridiculous, the drum machine sounds cheap, and the album is laden with melodies so shamelessly cheesy that they would make Jean Michel Jarre blush. Echoed croaks and tremolo guitars join to complete a baffling combination of black metal and synthpop – one that even dares to draw the entirety of its lyrical content from the writings of Tolkien. It takes a sick mind to fuse ideas such as this. Pizzicato strings, archaic computer drumming and hobbits? How on (Middle) Earth can anything good come out of that? Plain impossible!
Yet, for all its clumsiness, I keep returning to this album day after day. Perhaps it is precisely that clumsiness that retains my interest: since no grandiose production tricks steal my attention, everything on Dol Guldur is an abstraction of itself. The percussion sound is so far from human that it no longer needs to sound human; same goes for the synthesizer strings, flutes and whatnot. The actual sounds are merely abstract placeholders, and the mind of the listener does the work to hear the music beyond the sound.
Disc goes in, push Play. I chuckle for a few seconds at the synthesizer sound, and then it happens: additional layers of music – which don’t actually exist – start to appear in the sparingly composed songs. The band provides just enough to fuel the flames: a simple beat and some melody hooks, something for the mind to build upon – new rhythms and layers of harmony, different each day. The masterful foundation of everything is that the listener is there with the band to create the music, as opposed to the average metal album that reveals its cards all at once.
The musical framework pounds on slowly throughout the album, the steady drum beats (almost devoid of any cymbals) changing little along the way. “Repetition” of riffs becomes “hypnosis”, and time loses its meaning. The horns of Elfstone merge with the synth-woodwind of Khazad Dúm and further on into the next part of the hypnosis, Kôr. The trance is not interrupted by drastic changes in mood, so the same effect lasts to the very end.
This album completely disarms me of hurry and worry, even to the point that certain annoyances of earthly life cease to exist. Try it in morning traffic; you will find yourself in near-death situations because you forgot to look around yourself. Knowledge of hobbit-journeys is optional – the landscapes illustrated by this work are not restricted to those created by that one British chap.
What is the measure of a legendary and original (metal) album? Furthermore, how does one go about reviewing a work such as "Dol Guldur", a task more complicated by the amorphous nature of the album? The answers to both questions are revealed through repeated and thoughtful listening of the album in question, for everything about "Dol Guldur", which must stand as Summoning's greatest effort, is simultaneously a testament to both the originality and beauty that is capable of being displayed in modern music as well as the pointlessness of rigidly classifying a composition of such grandeur as strictly belonging to one genre or the other, an act which is bound to disappoint the reviewer in question, as this album is not strictly metal, nor is it strictly ambient or anything else.
I have always had the impression from these Austrian geniuses that their music was always about creating a powerful, lasting impression on the listener. This entails a process that involves being hypnotised by the multiple, non-linear layers of melody present in each lengthy composition (six of the eight tracks on Dol Guldur are near or longer than 10 minutes in length, with none of the verse-chorus-verse structure of "common" music), rather than creating a visceral, knockout first impression (fans of blast-beats and 220 beat-per-minute rhythms need not apply) which by its very nature is dependent on expelling so much energy in its execution such that repeated listening offers little to no rewards, and more despairingly, belie the intellect and effort that went into the composition to begin with. While some artists in the black metal or atmospheric metal genres strive for image over substance, for instant gratification over greater meaning and satisfaction (is it really necessary for me to provide names here?), Protector and Silenius seem to grant their audience a great deal more intellectual credit and instead choose to craft low-tempo, multi-layered, complex compositions that, like a flower in bloom, are constantly revealing more facets of themselves over time.
There is a sense of familiarity throughout the album that one feels, in the sense that from "Angbands Schmeiden" until "Over Old Hills" one is utterly immersed in the sonic landscape that is being presented. While other albums, such as (for instance) "Drawing Down The Moon" from Beherit or "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" from Burzum are equally captivating in their ambiance, there is something else on display in "Dol Guldur" that elevates it to utter majesty. Specifically, in this reviewer's opinion, whereas most death and black metal involve themes of destruction and more generally criticism of existing structures, "Dol Guldur" (and all other Summoning albums, though to varying degrees) exudes a confidence about the success of the ideals professed by the genre. To conclude, by listening to "Gol Duldur" in its totality, not only will you be hypnotised, but you will leave the experience feeling liberated in at least some sense, for the message of this album is that, at some point in time, be it far in the past or at some time in the future, the need for conflict may be negated as the purveyors of ancient, noble ideals will be utterly triumphant.
This is probably the most unoriginal album I've ever heard by a metal band in my life. From the cheesy, synthesized intro to the semi-decent riff in Nightshade Forests (the only reason this got 17%). The vocals are sub-par for black metal; they sound like a croaking teenager. The production is terrible, too. Everything bar the guitars and bass is programmed. Everything. In Over Old Hills, there's even vocoded vocals. What the hell? Is this trance or black metal?
That's not enough, it's just not enough. They repeat the same synth patterns/riffs over, and over, and over, and over again. On this particular album, as usual, they have an extremely drawn-out intro composed entirely of samples. I bet they stole them. There is no end to the repetition and unoriginality of this "band" (by band I mean two guys, a guitar/bass/drum machine, and a computer).
Their lyrics aren't untouched by their sheer lack of originality either. Half of the lyrics, I swear to god, are quotes from Lord of the Rings books! I don't mind when Blind Guardian does it (I know they aren't black metal, quite obviously, but they still sing Tolkien) because they're original about it and they don't repeat absolutely everything over and over and over again. Summoning just does it in such a terrible way that I can't help but laugh, and I honestly believe that Dul Guldur is a satirical, comedic album not meant to be taken seriously.
This album starts with a predictable instrumental medieval-folk-esk piece. Though nothing fantastic in particular, it gives a good entrance to this epic item of an album. The songs that follow have a particularly strong essence to them, conveying the imagery of the landscapes of the Middle-Earth ask originally depicted by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The guitars of the album are simplistic rudimental black metal guitars, with lots of tremolo picking, and a very repetitive feel. However, what truly amazes me is how it works into the intense epic symphonic aspects which seem to not overlap but meld into the harsher guitars. The contrast of the symphonic and guitars, yet how they combine so well together is what always attracted me to Summoning, and will keep me back for more.
Vocally this album has a harsher, if not lower in pitch, aspect but it pretty standard black metal. Once again, what really amazes me is how they manage to capture such beauty using such ferocity. Truly talented artists.
Overall, this album really is an epic album that I suggest for any fan of any sort of black metal. If your intimidated by keyboards, this album may not be for you, but even still I think the most harshest and critical black metal purists could enjoy this album.
Summoning return with their third (but Second Medieval based) album, and the sounds is so much stronger than on Minas Morgul.
No, the production has not changed (it almost sounds downgraded in a sense), but the music has evolved. Instead of envisioning Middle Earth while listening to Summoning's music, this album TAKES YOU THERE!!
Through the Nightshade Forests, Rivendell, Lórien, the Mountains, Khazad-Dûm -- every spectacular location from the masterpiece trilogy of Tolkien has been musically linked with this album, and every song transports you to a different setting from the realm of Middle Earth.
The music varies a bit from Minas Morgul, with the guitars being pushed back lower into the mix whilst the synth and drums dominate the songs. The vocals are performed almost exactly the same way that they are on MM, though it would seem that both of the Duo would perform Vocals parts together, mix and matching their vocal styles to create one driving force of a track.
This album is powerful and is highly recommended. In fact, it is imperative that you get a hold of this release to FULLY expierence Summoning.
Summoning’s Dol Guldur is perhaps the best album to ever come out of Austria. The music, for once, doesn’t center on being good, ass-kicking, mind-blowing music. Instead feelings, emotions and stories are being projected at us from what seems like a long gone time. Not that the music isn’t that good, I just wanted to point out that Summoning goes deeper, they play with more parts of our heads than just the ears. The eloquent, solemn and sombre keys and the repeated tremolo chords on the guitar build the musical foundation.
Sometimes other elements, such as flutes, are put into the mix but the foundation’s always there. It’s a sort of minimalism I guess, but a very expressive one. Summoning has always been known as a Tolkien metal band, and hey, they’re the best. No other band can portray Khazad Dúm, Kôr or the smithy of Angband as accurately as Summoning does. Dol Guldur was a man stronghold that got repeatedly invaded and used by the darker forces. Sauron abided and recovered there. As when reading the books one is moved far away. Tolkien’s supreme grasp of language speaks straight to the heart. As do Summoning. Ever-present is a longing, a dreary wanting of something else. The atmosphere provides mourning, emptiness. It can very well be the extreme emptiness a soldier experiences after a battle, victorious or not. The kind of emptiness one get after a constant rush of adrenaline, putting one’s compassion aside, keeping every thought of the head, focusing on moving, fending off, repeating it over and over again more as a reflex than deliberate action. It’s the same emptiness that we’ve all experienced. The emptiness is the brain’s response to something that’s just impossible to take in, that it’s incapable of handling – sudden losses for example. And they put it all down in notes…
Yes, Summoning strikes deeper and more profound than anyone else, making a gateway, communicating straight to your senses, your memories – your emotions. If they didn’t, the guitars or the steady drums (made by a drum machine) and the way everything echoes, wouldn’t have been as mesmerizing, as fascinating. The long songs wouldn’t have appeared as short as they do now. One would have spotted the repetitiousness of it all. The hoarse and rapt vocals wouldn’t have seemed as natural as they do. While being great musicians those two Austrians could very well have had more actual skill with their instruments. Real drums would have added several new dimensions to it, just as varied guitars would have done. But I don’t know if it would’ve stayed as genuine if it got complex. The minimalism, with such great yet simplistic arrangements is perhaps the key.
Wyrmwater Glaurung is a real standout with its circularity, ringing bells and the sweeping, sucking keyboards. It’s such a sprawling song. Playful. As the other songs are so heavy and gloomy, it makes a nice break. Dol Guldur is an essential album; everyone should be obligated to have it.
Black metal's fundamental aim and role, as a whole, can be defined as "opposition to the Christian values of today". Whether it invokes the strength of pre-Christian times, reflects on the beauty of nature, or just plain hails Satan, black metal is at war with Christianity. In a Pagan/Nihilistic/non-Christian society, black metal would have no artistic value, it would be fighting a foe that doesn't exist and therefore would be entirely unnecessary, in the same way guns created solely for shooting down planes become unnecessary when every plane has been destroyed.
This doesn't apply to Summoning. They aren't part of the war. They're the proud, glorious ride home on horseback, having already vanquished their deadly enemy, holding high in triumph the heads of those slain. They transcend the war, they are victory. With Christianity gone they lose no value, they are simply representative of the glory and honour of Romanticism. This is why, to many, their designated label over the years has been "post-black metal" (no, not the same as those bands with a shaky BM aesthetic accompanied by over-the-top orchestration and pretentious gimmicks, this is real post-BM); once BM reaches its goal, they are the logical progression. While most albums that invoke the medieval spirit possess a sense of longing, there is none here, because in Summoning's world the medieval is reality, and in that I find more hope for a better future than in any other album I've ever listened to.
Without doubt, this is one of the most important metal albums ever recorded. While their previous releases had a slight aura of cheesiness about them (they rule, don't get me wrong), as well as a lack of coherence in places, their songwriting talent really comes together here. Not one foot is put wrong, not once do you think "hmm, that could have been better", it is absolutely immersive from start to finish, and reaches a height of totality/wholeness that very few can achieve.
The majestic melodies are slowly developed through repetition into epic, grandiose climaxes, accompanied by the most powerful drumwork on any metal album ever composed, militaristically throbbing thunderously, albeit slow and fairly simple, as well as being a drum machine. Sadness is poignant in places, though there's no immature sentimentality here, simply a great sense of respect and reflection upon those who gave their lives to the cause. Just listen to Khazad Dum - listen to the way the original motif is built on layer-upon-layer, taking the imagination into a bombastic, beautiful journey of emotion and spiritual refreshment. In fact, just listen to any song, they're all sensational (Nightshade Forests and Elfstone are my personal favourites).
If that wasn't enough, this is one of the greatest-produced albums ever as well. Every single instrument appears to be dominating at the same time, yet they aren't fighting with one another, they're working together in harmony. From the booming echoey drums, to the rich, warm guitars. The strong, throaty, proud vocals. The various brilliant uses of keyboards, from the hefty brass sound, shining the sun's warmth down upon the men on horseback, to the sweet woodwind; a flock of birds flying over a healthily flowing stream.
Many of the best metal artists have at least partially had inspiration from those classic books by a certain Mr. Tolkien, which you may or may not know about. The tales explore various ancient Romantic/Nihilistic notions, such as having the will power and honour to increase the value of one's life through one's great achievements (rather than having inherent worth by obeying a set of external morals), great respect for the beauty of the land, etc. Few bands are quite as heavily motivated by those epics as Summoning. Indeed, virtually their entire discography focuses upon nothing but the quests and events of Middle Earth, and the resulting music is no surprise considering the scope and depth that those books covered, and the values held within them.
I'm sure I don't have to tell you again that this album is a masterpiece, but I'm going to anyway. THIS IS MAGNIFICENT. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR YOU NOT TO OWN THIS. BUY IT NOW.