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When it comes to underrated first full length releases, Summoning's Lugburz is one of those lone outriders lost in a mid/late 90's soup of prejudice and wrongfulness. It truly is a phenomenon how some albums get so negative feedback and bad reputation. Be it a rawer production or a completely different style, whatever the reasons some people may have, Lugburz is not necessarily an album for fans of later Summoning material. The clear lack in long and epic songs and energy with which they immortalized themselves on their first attempt is most impressive.
Although me myself not being a hard-core Tolkien fan, Lord of the Rings seems to be a popular theme in the heavy metal scene on occasions (especially Summoning, whose lyrics are always about something in the Tolkien universe). Lugbúrz (or Barad-dûr, the dark tower where Sauron resides and keeps watch over Middle-earth) is a very fitting name for the rawness, evil theme found on this LP. The music, as mentioned before, does not resemble their later material any bit. hence I wouldn't recommend it to fans of persistent epic music. Their approach here reminds the listener to Burzum at times, due to the shrieked vocals and atmospheric black metal approach. The only thing that's different is that the music itself is,... let's say a little playful at times, with tunes that don't sound completely comical, but which have a sort of lunatic touch to them. Imagine Varg Vikernes on cannabis or Fenriz screaming to his old rock'n'roll records.
Lugburz starts out with the majestic, flowing and beautiful intro "Grey Heavens", which is the perfect introduction by contrast to the rest of the record. A rather playful, but melancholic tune created by horns and the traditional keyboard effort of Silenius and Protector, with gentle waves and kettledrums in the background. The rest of the album is black metal with desperate screams and every now and then underlined with keyboard parts. Raspy guitar work and great (real) and fast drumming is also a trademark of Summoning's first release. The production is fair, considering it being a black metal album and the songs themselves are each unique, creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere. The vocals themselves overdrive every once and a while, but if you like high pitched screaming with a scraping sound to it, it won't bother you. The melodies complement wonderfully with the screams and you really get that dark rider feeling à la Tolkien (ex. Flight of the Nazgul sounds exactly like the song title suggests). The music progresses wonderfully, with a very sable tone to it, leaving no room for much compromise.
The problem, I think, with many people discrediting this album so much, is the disappointment they endured when listening to this album for the first time, since it doesn't leave much room for their later, more atmospheric work with the echoes in the drums and the epic progression of their long songs. While expecting exactly their later work, people started pointing fingers and loathing a great piece of spectacular executed music. While still being a "rough start", don't make the mistake in underestimating and underappreciating this album, and expand your understanding "Beyond Bloodred Horizons".