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Do not be fooled by the short play format of Nightshade Forests. It offers 33 minutes of music, across four tracks, three of which were culled from the Dol Guldur recordings; the fourth added for this release. Summoning should require little introduction to most readers, but if you are among the uninvited, they play an epic brand of black metal which centers on the use of sweeping synthesizers and fantastic drum programming to support its gnarled, rasping core. The few detractors of the band claim that the band's largely synthetic atmosphere is 'cheesy', but this is honestly what I love so much about their work. It's very imaginative, and truly epic. If you were to close your eyes and picture yourself in the band's focal point (all their music is conceptually structured around The Lord of the Rings), Middle-Earth, THESE are the sounds you would form within you: across the peaks of the Misty Mountains, through the depths of darkened Moria, and beyond.
The drums crack like thunder across the beautiful "Mirkwood", while the guitars blaze in melodic black patterns that serve only as a component to the band's melancholic tapestries of a fictional mythistory. Though this track nears the 10 minute length, I found myself bored not once through its various climates. "Kortirion Among the Trees" is slightly shorter (8:50), and a more lush landscape for its flute-like emulation and the simple, elegaic chords which resound therein, echoes of depth and structure the like of which few other bands can muster. "Flesh and Blood" evokes memories of glorious warfare and the loss of peoples, with a simple, tribal structure bathed in more of the programmed, percussive thunder. Though a pleasure (like any Summoning song) for several moments, it is the one track on this EP that I do not completely adore, as it does stretch beyond its welcome after the midpoint. Fortunately, "Habbanan Beneath the Stars" halts this descent into mediocrity with a delightful palatte of hypnotic drumming and layered ambiance, across the tormented garbling of Silenius.
'Not night as ours, unhappy folk,
Where nigh the Earth in hazy bars,
A mist about the springing of the stars,
There trails a thin and wandering smoke
Obscuring with its veil half-seen
The great abysmal still Serene.'
Summoning is one of the creative pinnacles in all of metal music, one of the very best at creating a thorough embodiment of concept, while maintaining the raw purity of the form in which they are rooted. It goes without saying that the discriminating listener should own all of their work, for its value exceeds the cash you'll pay by a thousandfold. Mesmeric, wandering and uncompromising.
Summoning’s Nightshade Forests will take you on an imaginative journey of war and nature. Nightshade Forests is built of thick heavily layered compositions filled with majestic ambience and some very unique percussion work. The vocals of this album are also excellent and really are what make this feel like a black metal album rather than just an ambient album. I suppose this album appeals to me, because personally I love ambient music, if it is done right of course. Unfortunately, it is often done poorly and in horribly repetitive fashion. Ildjarn’s Hardangervidda comes to mind when thinking of some high quality ambient music. Of course, Nightshade Forests isn’t nearly as minimalistic and subtle. Nightshade Forests has actually somewhat complex songs, layered with multiple ambiences and subtle backgrounds.
The vocals of Nightshade Forests are done in typical but more than competent black metal style. I think they fit fantastically with the more melodic ambience lying underneath. The vocals give a good contrast and add some darkness and aggressiveness to the overall style of the album.
The guitars in Nightshade Forests are actually quite hard to decipher. They are somewhat low in the mix and kind of just get scattered around. Let’s just say that they aren’t the focal point of Nightshade Forests. The stunning ambience/keys create the melody and thickness of the album and the percussion work creates wonderful rhythm in support.
As for the ambience, there appears to be several parts to each song. Some stand out immediately, while others are lower in the mix and harder to pickup. However, the ambiences are all highly majestic and gorgeous. Each song is immersive and really develops deep atmosphere. It would be hard to consider this album actually black metal though, aside from the vocals. This album is mostly atmospheric ambience with folk/Celtic style percussion work and each song basically follows this formula through their 7+ minute durations. At no point do they ever become repetitive or boring, even though they stay generally on the same path throughout, because there is quite a bit going on. During the second half of “Flesh and Blood”, you can hear sword fighting, which adds a really unique depth to that song. “Flesh and Blood” is my favorite song on the album and the sword fighting in the background creates a heavily emotional element to a mesmerizing ambience. This song really emulates the vicious and yet uniquely beautiful wonder of ancient times.
Overall, Nightshade Forests is some of the best ambience I’ve come across to date. The compositions are complex and immersive. This is certainly one of the best EPs I have ever heard. Highly recommended for anyone remotely interested in atmospheric or ambient metal.
Summoning are a strange band. Their music is best described as ambient. Now I know what you're thinking, "Ambient! That's just a synonym for slow, boring, and pointless". But wait...while in most cases I'd wholeheartedly agree with this assessment, Summoning manage to make ambient totally kick ass, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the little EP 'Nightshade forests'.
There are four songs on here, and they all rule. Seriously, I'd call Mirkwood the best song ever written, but the existence of Kortirion Among the Trees makes it a tie. And then you have the other two, and you get the idea.
The production is weird. The guitars reside somewhere in the upper stratosphere and just kinda rain down on everything. The keys and drums are most prominent. It's really simple, the keys make a melody, the drums provide a rhythm, and the guitars provide background noise. Simple, yet it completely owns.
Mirkwood is a strange title. The song evokes an atmosphere completely unlike what I imagine when I read about the same in Tolkien-lit. But it totally kicks ass, so I don't care. Whenever you hear black metal fans talking about 'atmosphere', this is what they mean. The same for Kortirion. I mean, that keyboard melody! It whirls around in your head like opium smoke. Flesh and Blood...it's like the dictionary came to life and started talking about what epic means. Habbanan Beneath the Stars closes with a vibe much similar to Elfstone on Dol Guldur (but of course, shorter).
I don't even know why you're still reading this. Get this, you moron.
Summoning can not really be called blackmetal, except for their debut album. Whereas blackmetal is (or should be) ugly and guitar-driven, Summoning's keyboard-based music is beautiful and atmospherical. Only the harsh but still strangely well-fitting vocals remind of Summoning's roots which lay partly in the soil of blackmetal.
Nightshade Forests should, according to Summoning, be seen as a part of the Dol Guldur album, from which these four songs were dropped obviously due to the massive duration that Dol Guldur would have reached in its entirety.
This album is different than Dol Guldur, though, mostly because of the different sound and production. The guitars, which this time play a very small role in the songs, are mixed to the background so that they are virtually just low buzzing left in the shadow of the multiple keyboard-layers, bombastic percussions and the gnarling vocals. Because of this, Summoning's characteristically low "metalness" is reduced to utter minimum on this album.
But main point is not whether Protector and Silenius are playing metal or not - it is the songs. I simply can't figure out anything negative to say about the songwriting or the decisions made in the arrangements. Glorifying words I could never find enough. Like masterpieces often do, this album plays with your imagination, awakening inner landscapes: majestic, snowcovered mountain views, an endless morning horizon at high sea, vast and misty spruce forests at dusk - whatever your imagination is able to create. Perfect music for wandering in the nature.
If you like beautiful and atmospherical music and have no problem with blackmetal-styled vocals (or just liked Summoning's previous efforts), this album will not be a disappointment.
Highlights: all four