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Melodic Minstrel Metal? Yes, and it's fantastic. - 90%

DrummingEdge133, May 8th, 2009

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.