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"Lugburz" may be the first album Summoning had released, but they wouldn't release their first real album until 7 months later with "Minas Morgul". Obviously this isn't literally their first album, as it is not their debut. However, this is the first album Summoning found their signature formula and what started the truly epic sound they're very well known for creating. Gone are the blistering fast guitar riffs, chaotic tremolo picking, and blastbeats provided by an acoustic drum kit. Instead, we get slower, crawling guitar riffs with much slower tremolo picking and programmed drums with a ton of reverb. The keyboard also makes a far bigger impact here. On the last album, keyboards could be heard and took the spotlight in some places, but they were not nearly as important to the music. On "Minas Morgul", they are used in every song, and in extreme amounts.
While blistering tremolo riffs made up a majority of the songs on "Lugburz", the guitars here work more as a companion to the keyboards, which are extremely epic and atmospheric in nature. For example, the album's third track "The Passing of the Grey Company". This song begins with a synth intro and the guitars come in soon after. The keyboards play a larger role on this album than the guitars and are at times seemingly more technical than the guitars. Now, I'm probably not the best judge for this, as I am still very new with playing guitar and I have yet to learn anything on the keyboard, but the two instruments seem to differ greatly in terms of technicality. These riffs are presented in a slow, some would say crawling, manner. They are there to enhance the epic sound of the music rather than blast your face off. Songs like "Lugburz" and the beginning of "Through the Forest of Dol Guldur" seem to favor the guitar over the keyboard, but in reality if either of these instruments were left out of the album, it would not be nearly as effective with creating the atmosphere it does. On one hand, say the guitars were taken out of the equation. What we would have now is some overly cheesy sounding synth-pop album. If the keyboards were taken out, we'd have some half-assed atmospheric black metal album. These instruments are necessary components on this album to create the atmosphere this beats emits.
The keyboards are definitely a huge factor in this music, but at times, they do seem ridiculous. I have no idea what kind of synthesizer the band used for this release, but it sounds awfully cheap on certain occasions. "The Passing of the Grey Company" and "Dagor Bragollach" are two of the album's biggest offenders in this regard. These songs definitely aren't bad, but they do indeed contain some of the cheesiest sounding synths out of all these 11 songs. While these keyboards do for the most part sound good and greatly enhance the atmosphere, it is instances like these that really cause some distractions to the overall music. In addition to the slight irritation I have with some of the keyboards, the vocals on this album seem too low in the mix. It is almost as if they are buried beneath everything. It would benefit the music greatly if they were higher in the mix.
This is definitely a near opposite album from "Lugburz" in terms of sound and atmosphere, and aside from the keyboards and change in guitar playing, the drums are a huge reason for this. Unlike that album, the drums here are programmed. Trifixion has left the band and this definitely was for the better. These drums add so much atmosphere to the music and have such a unique sound, there really are no other bands that utilize the same tone. Sure we now have bands like Caladan Brood, an amazing band that obviously worships Summoning and utilizes the same reverb in the drum programming, but Summoning did it first, did it best, and still to this day do it best. These drums are heroic and really help with the atmosphere of the overall music to create a true visualization of Tolkien's Middle-Earth. Summoning is a band that makes me insanly proud to be a Lord of the Rings nerd.
This album is not perfect. There are certainly flaws here, mainly in the aforementioned keyboards and vocal departments. Still, this is a beautiful album, as well as the first Summoning record I had ever heard, and it made me fall in love with this band. I recommend this be the starting point when first listening to Summoning because like I said, it is their first real album in terms of their unique atmospheric and epic black metal sound. After this album, if you are curious about the band's debut, go check out "Lugburz". However, "Minas Morgul" is overall the best of the two. From here, the band would improve and release other landmarks in the atmospheric black metal genre.
Here we have what is arguably Summoning's finest hour. After the meandering Lugburz and the departure of Trifixion, the Austrian duo finally solidified their approach going forward. Being the first album in this style, Minas Morgul naturally exhibits some of the the band's greatest ideas along with some less digestible shortcomings. It's a decidedly mixed bag, but holy hell does it ever clear the ballpark when it really gets cooking.
Specifically, the riffs have a fairly concentrated foothold here, not yielding wholly to the shrieking keyboard melodies like on some of the band's post-Stronghold material. This dichotomy strikes an enviable balance, giving Minas Morgul a unique identity amongst the rest of Summoning's catalogue. "Through the Forest of Dol Guldur," "Marching Homewards," and especially "Lugburz" contain some of the greatest riffs these attached-at-the-hip comrades have ever committed to disc. They are always delivered via a fairly comprehensible tremolo style, thus not hampered by the excessive, dour reverb and diffusion albums like Oath Bound suffered from. Alternatively, the vocals are processed beyond the point of inanity and generally lack the grand scope Summoning was aiming for with their inclusion. To my ears, it sounds like Silenius delivers most of the narrative here, and as I've stated in the past, he is certainly weaker than Protector from a vocal standpoint.
Another issue I have with Minas Morgul is that some of the keyboard sections sound far too bouncy and upbeat. On it's own this isn't a huge issue, but signs of decay begin to float to the surface when they are set next to the gurgling roars and the programmed military snare runs. The obvious casualty here is "Dagor Bragollach," which doesn't seem to have a clear focus regarding tone or delivery. The inclusion of a couple of purely instrumental numbers like "Orthanc," contribute little to the album on the whole and are tracks best skipped on the whole.
It goes without saying that this risky approach yields a few gems due to impudence alone. "The Legend of the Master Ring" is an appropriately-titled epic and by far the best track here. Summoning should experiment with piano textures more often, because this one is a real treat and belongs on any best-of compilation should one ever arise. This is certainly contrasted by some face-palm moments, like the random bum keyboard notes that surface during the synth break halfway into "Ungolianth." I'm all for going out of key to summon a melodic shift, but I'm surprised nobody caught that one. Regardless, it certainly helps that the Balrog's share of Minas Morgul is in a more accessible (for Summoning) vein. Eleven tracks on Oath Bound would likely constitute two discs and nearly two hours total. The shorter tracks aren't always the better ones here though, so don't discount protracted epics like the aforementioned "Marching Homewards."
As it stands, Minas Morgul still can't hope to top Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame and also falls slightly short of Stronghold. It certainly has it's place in the band's storied discography, as Summoning had to exorcise some demons here to get their unique formula streamlined and focused. Don't miss "The Legend of the Master Ring," and give this one a whirl if you're in the mood, you might be surprised how much mileage you get out of it.
"We see the drop of our drummer as the start of the real Summoning style. The real drummer was always the disturbing element in our music. Real drum rhythms do not suit to the music of Summoning at all. The drums of Summoning focus manly on deep tom toms, kettle drums and marching drum; played in a very slow way. Any boaster breaks or blast beats would totally destroy the feeling. I am really bored by the standard Hi Hat, bass drum, snare rhythms which didn't really change since the beginning of rock music. I want to create rhythms that don't rock, but spread the feeling of ancient times."
~Protector, in an interview in 2001
Indeed, this really is the first release that really gave us the true style of Summoning today, but at the time they didn't really know that; what that essentially translates to in terms of the changes made from the foundation of Lugburz on Minas Morgul is a focus on more keyboards and slow-building songs. Right away, the ominous build of "Soul Wandering" and the electronic drums- with no intention to sound real in the slightest- makes you realize something's different here. I want to say that Summoning made the guitars more of a backdrop for the keyboards because that was certainly their intention but although there's even less of a focus on detail in the riffs than there was on Lugburz, their position in the mix and the fact that they can still function fairly properly as black metal riffs because the style intrinsically lacks that sort of detail causes them to frequently win over the keyboards for the most dominant element in the music when they're in action. This is good news for most people into more traditional black metal because this is probably the closest to black metal they've ever sounded in their "true" incarnation, and it also happens to be one of their more concise and riffy albums. Songs like "Through the Forest of Dol Guldur" and "Lugburz" (you put the title track on the wrong album, guys) are pretty much black metal through and through, even the drumming is more conventional and less Summoning-esque in its programming. Sometimes the drums even do something resembling blastbeats! It makes for one of Summoning's most varied albums, even if it doesn't quite capture the same atmosphere that some of the later albums would.
I'll address what has been brought up by previous reviewers on multiple occasions and seems to be a prevalent complaint; yes, the synths do have a tendency to sound extremely cheap, tinny, and of course cheesy as hell due to the I-can't-believe-they're-good RPG video game background music melodies- they're at their worst on "Passing of the Grey Company", but interestingly enough, everything surrounding them is so genuine and well-crafted that it makes the initial reaction of "christ I feel like I'm playing a NES game" easy to get over and the keyboards do have their moments where they do kind of drop the cheesiness and actually start to sound grandiose; mostly at the tail-end of the album in songs like "Dagor Bragollach" and "The Legend of the Master-Ring". There are moments, such as those ones, where they really sound in touch with the intertwined layers of sound sort of effect that they would come to perfect on subsequent albums. The multiple layers of thunderous drums signalling the march into battle, the triumphant keyboards and synths, the tremolo'ing guitars and the wispy harsh vocals each occupying their own space and neither one is treated with more favor than another; each gets their own sections to build and evolve within the album; usually a band tends to neglect at least one or two instruments in the overall formula or I'm just sort of confused and disgruntled at all the disparate elements thrown together in a given song but all is treated with equal importance to the end product and it works, because Summoning actually give a shit about dynamics. In the world where band seem to be producing every single one of their albums with the intention of everything being right at the front of your attention, listening to the keyboards fluctuate between quiet and loud while playing the same melody on "Dagor Bragollach" is actually very refreshing and entertaining. It's yet another trait of Summoning that only careful listening reveals, and one of the hidden elements at play that makes their music as thick and immersive as it is.
The vocals are perhaps neglected a bit but they are the least important part of Summoning's music and are more-or-less tacked on once everything else is assembled; they're mostly just a static layer that isn't meant to be paid attention to and act as sort of a storyteller as the rasping give it an abrasive undercurrent, but the delivery of them tends to be weak, not being able to hold a scream, sometime peetering off in the middle or too early. They're generally just quite faint. Odd, because they were the strong point of the album last time around. Their role as the weakest link of the album is fitting enough, though; better them than another crucial component of the music suffer, I suppose. There's a reason they were neglected, there's always something else you can pay attention to, which is fortunate.
There are a few really goofy things about this album that should make it seem like a really cheap, amateurish and inferior album from a third-rate band, but the superior compositional skill and the unique and plentiful elements at play give it something of a timeless quality. Despite Minas Morgul's interesting qualities as a diverse sort of hybrid/transition album, this is just the basic setup; they would build on the foundation set in ways I find much more captivating, but this is still just a really good, sort of experimental black metal album that could feasibly occupy a spot in any decent metalhead's collection. However, although the quality of Summoning albums tends to fluctuate (albeit fortunately not very wildly), the core features that makes up their sound consistently mature as they go on; this is an ambitious and entertaining album, sure, but it's also an immature one. They've already pinned down something great, and this is only the beginning.
I didn't so much as hate this album when I first got it, more so I hated the synth patches with a deep undying passion. I've got a super cheap Casio keyboard from '93 somewhere in my room, and even that had better patches. It's not so much that they sound obviously fake, but that they sound tinny as all hell. I get the feeling that said synths weren't recorded via MIDI or what have you, but that Summoning got an extremely cheap microphone and put it near the in built speakers of, well, a cheap Casio keyboard from '93.
However, after finally getting used to the tinnitus inducing synths, I've come to realise that this is a really good record. While I do enjoy Summoning's later super-repetitive, bombastic albums, this is certainly the most dynamic, the most interesting and the least sleep-inducing out of everything they've done. There's actual guitar riffs (!!!), songs are short and accessible and not hugely repetitive. Certainly there's a few rank moments here and there, but expecting perfection from a band is a bit unfair.
Summoning do their best to make everyone uninterested by the horrible intro tune. "Dagor Bragollach" for some reason is reminiscent of a black metal cover of the Tintin TV show theme - (fond memories! Looking forward to the movie), all strange, awkward big drums and attempts at dramatic-ness. Try not to pass out from the awfulness, though, and you'll be thrown into the oddly formed, bizarre-yet-awesome world that is a Summoning album.
Those who've heard later Summoning shouldn't expect anything hugely different; the usual tremelo-d riffs bleating away, perhaps a bit higher in the mix and a bit more aggressively then in later records, very artificial programmed drums playing very symphonic sounding lines (certainly the drum lines on offer are very different from what an actual drummer would play), and a large keyboard orchestra giving us a bunch of very artificial flutes, pianos, strings, pan-pipes and choirs. I guess the main difference here from the later stuff is that there's a few moments where the guitars really come out into the forefront; the epic strains of "Through the Forest of Dol Guldur" being brilliantly driven by a few truly huge guitar riffs. Indeed, this long forgotten Summoning fondness for riffs (albeit of the slow, depressing variety) really lifts this album up; there's the brilliant military type intro riff of "Marching Homeward", whereas the endless death trudge of "Lugburz" is amazing; it's the kind of stuff a depressive black metal would kill for.
Various riff heavy songs aside, a lot of the album follows the usual Summoning bizarro-formula; the worse it sounds, the better it is. "Legend of the Master Ring" has a very Eurodance-ish piano (When are Austria going to see sense and put these guys on Eurovision?) and no drums for the most part, yet it's still a hugely epic track, a doomy guitar riff and a bunch of slow, sad synths melding in with said euro-piano for a real gloomy track with a tremendous vibe and atmosphere. "The Passing of the Grey Company" is another great example; you're looking at the worst synths used in the history of music in the intro, yet it's still totally awesome.. and when the guitars come in, well, it's all over. A huge track, some sort of crazy awesome euro dance symphonic black metal hybrid.. who would've thought that one of the best songs in the world would sound so tinny and irritating?
This is a great album, an amazing album. Summoning's best, even (or perhaps equal with LMHSYF). Their typical hugely immersive atmosphere's here, the riffs are the best they've done, the synth lines catchy and inventive, if a little bit gay. If you want to wander through a beautiful albeit vaguely fruity fantasy land for an hour or so, then I can't recommend this album highly enough.
Minus Morgul is a massive improvement over their last album Lugburz. For this one they dropped the black metal structure which I thought made Lugburz kind of a bland album. This time around they use more synths, richer melodies, and a drum program where as to using an actual drumming like on Lugburz.
The main difference in this one I found was how all the songs don’t follow the traditional black metal song layout. On the last album every song had the same basic guitar riff and shriek vocals. This time they use more synths and keyboard in every song. Even though they use the black metal style riffs in the songs, they have a lighter and happier melody to them, which improves to the medieval atmosphere, which is what this band is based off of.
They also use a drum program instead of an actual drummer. I thought the drumming was decent on the first LP. The drum program also does an ok job I thought. The only problem with the drum programs is that some songs you can tell that it’s a program and not a real drummer, which was about half the songs one here, one including “Orthanc” which is just nothing but drumming and keyboards. Hearing the fake sounding drums kind of makes it hard to get into the picture of the music and decreases the atmospheric moments.
They use a lot more keyboards in this one. The first album you didn’t really know if they were there outside of the opening track. This time they use them in every song, and they make every song stand out more. It makes every song sound like they are unique and they all stand out more compared to the first album which was nothing more than standard black metal. Also, the keyboards add a lot more atmosphere to the music. They build an epic medieval feeling in you. Unfortunately, the drum program kind of ruins it and pulls you out of the epic sounding atmosphere. Still the atmosphere is a huge improvement over the first album due to the fact that the first album didn’t really have much atmosphere, if any at all.
I enjoyed this album a lot. It’s better than the first album, but they don’t quite have the atmosphere part yet. It’s just not as good compared to their other later albums. Still, this is an album that fans of Summoning or atmospheric music should check out.
Everyone’s favorite Tolkien fan boys, Summoning, began their epic soundtrack like approach to music with Minas Morgul. Leaving more traditional black metal song structures behind, the band takes a deviant approach with circuitous synth melodies, borderline monotonous tremolo picking, and robotic sounding programmed drums. The result is a less than complete but nonetheless enjoyable transition into the atmospheric sound they are best known for today.
Once again Summoning derives an album title and lyrics from the works of Tolkien. Minas Morgul does an outstanding job bringing the Tolkien universe to life and capturing every awe inspiring ounce of it in the process. To me, Summoning seems more about eliciting a certain Tolkien spirit, and the synths and programmed drums are largely responsible for this, leaving the black metal-esque guitars and vocals as more of a lingering resonance.
But what better genre to attempt such a feat than black metal? The influences are still there as already mentioned, but they take a side seat to the epic if repetitious song structures. Keyboard elements, melodious as they are, do little in the way of variety. Each song opens with a set pattern and comes full circle more than once before arriving at its logical conclusion; they are the batter for our delicious musical cake. Guitars cut through this harmony without destroying it and add to the sense of grandeur, sort of like a nice fruit filling. The drums, while perfect and unflinching in their robotic efficiency, provide the frosting without being too sweet and increase the sense of majesty. Shrieking vocals seem dim compared to it all, but the added black metal flair is like sprinkles on top.
All in all, a solid piece of cake of epic size whose proportions are just right but whose flavors might get a little mixed up in the large serving. If you like repetitious song structures and getting lost in the epic feeling, buy now and don’t delay. Anyone else might feel a little lost. Expect neither pure black metal nor pure soundtrack and you’ll be alright.
Minas Morgul marks a transition point in Summoning's history. Here can be found the last vestiges of the band's black metal roots as well as the introduction of some of the epic soundtrack elements that would define their future direction. The most notable change would be the drumming; some of the tracks here keep time to busy rhythmic patterns typical of the black metal genre, which Summoning would abandon in later releases for a more reserved symphonic style of percussion. Keyboards have already replaced the guitar as the dominant melodic instrument on Minas Morgul, although the familiar buzzy tremolo picked guitar lines contribute to some songs as well. Silenius and Protector both contribute excellent harsh vocals as always.
"Dagor Bragollach" is one of my all time favorite Summoning tracks. Rousing sythesizer lines punctuated by marching snare and bells generate an incredible tension, which somehow continues to elevate even higher at every transition. The intensity is so sharp the listener can barely breathe until the song concludes.
"The Legend of the Master-Ring" is another standout track that showcases what would become a Summoning trademark: captivating keyboard melodies that span many measures before repeating.
Minas Morgul isn't a flawless album. One or two of the tracks drag on a bit too long, and the keyboard sound quality is a bit weak at times. But there is great material to be experienced here, and its exciting to witness the emergence of the brilliant and original art that Summoning would continue to produce on the tremendous follow up -- Dul Goldur -- and subsequent releases.
I am very new to the realm of Summoning. I've heard of them many times before but have not taken it upon myself to give them a listen (Though, I've always -- for some odd reason -- thought of them as sounding very familiar to Temnozor. Why, I don't know, and the difference is very clear.) until recently.
Minas Morgul was the first album I was able to get my hands on (It would seem Lugburz is seemingly rare?), and this album, while being poorly produced in some areas and also very obscure, still managed to absolutely captivate me. I am in love with this duo, and this release. Summoning's albums are just one giant ride through Middle-Earth; be it in Battles on the plains of Gorgoroth, Marching over the Misty Mountains, or speeding through the forests of Lórien, it makes no difference. The experience is something that only this band can bring us (and I say this as a person who has listened to NUMEROUS bands that are Tolkien influenced.).
The guitar work, while dry in tone and repetitively tremelo picked, seems to oddly support the amazing symphonies we hear from the keyboards. The drumming, while being reminiscent of Black Metal is also heavily Tom based. I can only describe these as being "Battle Drums", for that's EXACTLY what they are. The vocals are simply perfect for the music. As if the Nazgûl are the ones narrating the tales and journeys that are experienced within the music of this album.
This album is absolutely beautiful. It's HIGHLY recommended.
Highlights: Lugburz, Passing Of Grey Company, Morthond, Ungolianth, Dagor Bragollach, Through The Forest Of Dol-Guldur, and The Legend of The Master Ring
Minas Morgul was constructed by Isildur on the Second Age of Middle-Earth. But Minas Morgul it's also the second album of the guys of Summoning.
After kicking Trifixion ass out, they decided to use programmed drums, well that was certainly a very good decition. Minas Morgul gives us 11 songs and almost one hour and ten minutes of dark but epic black metal, grim and sometimes raw. Summoning mixes all this in an harmonious work, every single song of this album jams.
As I said before, when Trifixion was kicked out the things began to get better to Summoning, because with Trifixion drumming there will be an obvious lack of good sound on the album, instead Protector's drum programming sounds perfect, bombastic, and efective. If we listen to Summoning's first album "Lugbûrz", you
will understand why a drum machine was the right choise, because Trifixion drums will not be able to fit in this new dimension created by Protector and Silenius, simply as that.
Musically they've improved a lot, the quality of the recording is kind of raw, but yet much better that the previous album. Vocals are fundamental, in my opinion at least, the music created will not be the same if weren't there Protector and Silenius grunts, both of them shows great agression but also sorrow in some songs like Marching Homewards.
The lyrics are taken from JRR Tolkien poems and songs, if we read we will know that all have conection with dark events of Middle-Earth, with the exception of Marching Homewards that we don't know where they got those lyrics. Now, still taking about lyrics, here Summoning mixes with oustanding perfection the link between lyrics and music. Marching Homewards again, is probably the saddest story related by the band and that goes on constrast with the music, the riffs on this song made a very sad atmosphere. That goes on in songs like Dagor Bragollach, where music can makes us understand what Bragollach really was: a sudden event which brought lot of death and sorrow for the Elves and an important triumph for the Dark Lord Morgoth.
What Summoning shows us on Minas Morgul is their pure and unique style, with every song we got a pass on the time warp of imagination and then we are led
into Middle-Earth to witness every single detail that the band produces with their impressive and outstanding music. A voyage through the dark passages of Arda.
Here ladies and gentlemen we got the perfect mix of an unique black metal style, some medieval epic sounds and the greatness of JRR Tolkien behind them.
Lugbûrz: Cold, Grim, every grunt rips your ears off, killer drumming and some keyboards that make an amazing good ambient.
Morthond: A perfect mixture of tranquility and killer black metal blast beats. Wonderful and very good for headbanging and moshing jojo.
Dagor Bragollach: I write it somewhere on my review.
Through the Forest of Dol Guldur: What a misty and mystical voyage through Mirkwood, great drumming on this one!
Dor Daedeloth: Cold and Grim, slow and terrorific, splendid work of art, worthy of Morgoth's Land of Dread.
Sorry for my poor English :p