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While I consider Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame Summoning's one true masterwork, I constantly find other Tolkien diehards shoving Oath Bound in my face, purporting it to be the pinnacle of the Austrian duo's grand output. While this record can indeed be judged in the same light as all of the band's output post-Minas Morgul, the massive sonic scope the band continued to test the limits of begins to decay noticeably here. The once-vaunted halls that Silenius and Protector so proudly occupy have found themselves on shaky foundation, and the war drums are drawing near...
The frustrating thing is, Summoning hits it right out of the park with the intro, "Bauglir". The atmosphere is foreboding and ripe, with the tribal drums and mesmerizing chants building into a monumental crescendo; and then "Across the Streaming Tide" flops out of the gates like it took a premature arrow to the knee. Even for a band like Summoning, who lives and dies by the repetitious nature of the compositions, this one is a patience-tester. The melodies hint at something grand and optimistic, yet never truly build into the epoch-making splendor they really want to embody. It certainly doesn't help that the band seesaws back and forth between two droning passages, only taking a break near the middle of the song to let the cavernous drums do their thing.
This is where I normally come in and dismiss the worst track as a one-off fluke, but much of Oath Bound repeatedly stumbles down pitfalls as dank and bottomless as the one under the bridge of Khazad-dûm. On Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame the individual songs each had a unique identity, with "Runes of Power", "In Hollow Halls Beneath the Fells", and especially "Farewell" all ricocheting into the deepest reaches of your memory. Oath Bound's excessively hazy, dour scope only serves to muddy the creative waters and blur many of these songs together. Nearly every aesthetic becomes too expected and stock, even by eclectic Summoning standards. It doesn't necessarily reek of the band phoning it in, but one can almost sense that Summoning aimed for nine minute-plus track lengths and simply looped enough melodies to reach said goal - no matter what the compositional cost.
Brilliance still lurks in the shadows, as moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars. Just like "Bauglir" before them, "Might and Glory", "Land of the Dead", and to a lesser extent "Menegroth" all deliver the band's archaic appeal in spades. "Might and Glory" is the true masterpiece of the album, embodying the second coming of "In Hollow Halls Beneath the Fells", rumbling percussion and all. The flute melodies on this one are entrancingly sublime, and even Protector's normally passive vocals contribute to the appeal. The key to enjoying Summoning vocals is not to focus on the croaking approach, or even the lyrics. The vocal patterns are the true appeal, as Protector mixes his harsh rasp with seemingly random sound effects, which eventually add another hypnotizing layer to the proceedings. The always welcome group chorus from "Farewell" makes an appearance as well; it's all here.
The most impressive feather Oath Bound can stick in it's travel-worn cap is the fact that it picks up nicely as it reaches it's conclusion. "Land of the Dead" seems to be most individuals' favorite single Summoning song, and I can't say that I really disagree. Interesting that the song with the most heartwarming, affecting melodies turns out to be one of the most potent. The atmosphere on this one is so austere and solemn; you feel like you just want to give the song a hug. Four minutes longer than "Northward" or "Across the Streaming Tide", and a million times more appealing. "Menegroth" is also decent enough, showcasing Silenius' more tortured, rasping screams.
As with all Summoning albums, critiquing the production values is a lost cause. The band certainly achieved what they set out to accomplish here, with layer upon layer of droning chords and throbbing synths. I always get a kick out of how the band uses the cheapest keyboards available, yet through some pact with unseen forces manage to hone the delivery into a very convincing aural narrative. Trying to dissect individual riffs is almost always in vain, but "Might and Glory" certainly gets cooking when it feels like it, with the particular riff right before the eight minute mark being a massive highlight. Protector has certainly carved out his own unique style, with laid-back arpeggio patterns sprinkled alongside murmuring open notes.
As great as individual sections may be, Oath Bound still goes wide of the band's perceived target. The formula is clearly beginning to reach it's limits; the walls are closing in on the Austrian duo. Having to follow up a masterpiece certainly doesn't help. I honestly thought the band was finished after this one, but with Old Mornings Dawn the horn of Summoning sounds yet again in the deep. For the last time?
There's an underlying reason to the fact that this album took five years to make, while previous releases took maybe two maximum- it signals a sort of drop in creativity because, well, where can you really go after you've released an album like Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame? Ironically, that shit was beyond the full comprehension of mere mortals in its sublime brilliance. Oath Bound, in its careful atmosphere and guitarwork in a way could be called a somewhat botched return to form- not necessarily botched in that the result wasn't that good, botched in the sense that this album sort of tries to encapsulate the sound they had on Stronghold (and Dol Guldur, to a lesser extent) with a much larger soundscape, but it ends up falling (just) short of its goals except for a few select occasions.
In general though, the riffing style is at its most consistently strong and as gooey and intricate as ever. I didn't think it was even possible to make music any more legato while still retaining such clarity in melody, but the riffs- can we even call them riffs anymore? It's really just this endless stream of notes, almost seeming linear in composition but then a familiar theme is repeated...the guitars have a really nice sound that compliments the style of playing really well, too. It's somewhat hale on the surface but still has a fair degree of thickness to it and it gives the sharp, yet endlessly flowing melodies a much greater depth and resonance. "Across the Streaming Tide", "Might and Glory" and "Beleriand" all contain some Summoning riffs that remain consistently worthy of your attention throughout the entirety of the track. Their background pseudo-black-metal riffing is certainly no slouch, either; it's not quite on par with the previous album's soaring tremolos but the much more well-rounded, fuller sound in the guitars allows it to work fairly effectively.
Unfortunately, the production catered to the benefit of the guitars has led to it being detrimental to most of the other elements of the music. While the guitars are at their strongest in their fluid walls of melody, the album has been mixed much more like a traditional black metal album, with the sharp guitars overriding the keyboards a majority of the time. It doesn't make for outright bad music by any means, but a good deal of what made Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame so memorable was the constant dance for dominance in the song between the keyboards and guitars, and that's completely gone on Oath Bound. The actual melodies are somewhat lacking, too. They're musically sparse and thin, sounding like underdeveloped embryos of what could be awe-inspiring keyboard lines. Their weakness is somewhat alleviated by the vocals, which benefit to the cleaner production, but songs completely carried by the keyboards such as "Mirdautas Vras" rank among some of the weaker ones in Summoning's discography.
This is an album that is very difficult to judge how I feel about- while there are certainly a handful of brown spots that make this fall short of some of their other works, this IS still Summoning, they have still been maturing and there was clearly a lot of attention and care put into Oath Bound, but perhaps the extensive time and care put into the album signifies that Summoning is running out of ideas, with bursts of creativity coming into the fold. In typical Summoning fashion, the closer ("Land of the Dead") is worth all the hype you've heard about it. Everything that makes a great Summoning closer is there: The sappy piano line, the excessive repetition, the even cheesier flute, the chorus impossible not to sing along to...somehow, in the midst of Summoning's straining and struggling for that sublime essence, they always seem to stumble upon it in the closer, and this is the best closing track they ever wrote- maybe even the best individual song they ever wrote. I'm not going to rave on longer about this song because nothing I say will really justify the powers at work here. It's a really, really good song.
I would have been perfectly content with their career ending here; this sort of shows the alpha and omega of the riffing styles they've been exploring for the past ten years and, although this album feels a bit underdeveloped and wasting some of the potential they have, they still would have gone out on a high note. Still, though, they've already proven themselves more capable than this. Something about this album feels aimless and lost- after the rush of the victory, there is the long and taxing return home, and though they still wrote some fine tunes, they didn't quite bring it home on Oath Bound.
Three years earlier to this, the 2-song mini-CD 'Lost Tales' (2003) warmed the hearts of Tolkien-metal fanatics, but many feared the worst during the long years that followed... Hark, it was the day of grand relief, when the follower to the previous full length album, 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame' (2001), was released upon this tech-ridden planet. The perfect vessel to escape the cursed human life was here. The vessel is called 'Oath Bound', Summoning's sixth opus.
Those who do not know how Summoning sound like, I can tell that they perform black metal derivative music with folk music influences, almost hypnotic and definitely hymnal, usually very long songs (yes, Tolkien writings ["The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", "The Silmarillion" are the best known ones] can be "the bible" for some people, at least they are more credible than that mumbo-jumbo, and much more entertaining!), with militaristic beats. Lyrical concept of the band is based on the writings of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien as one might have noticed by now. Ambiguous electric distorted guitar is used, but not always, because it's the synthesizer work that is the back bone of Summoning (remember: Hymnal!). This time around, the guitar plays bigger role than on the previous album, and I really enjoy that the guitar is given more exposure again. The dark lord Morgoth created discordant music, and Summoning follow his steps. There's black metal style raspy vocals, and some spoken (usually sampled from radio plays etc.) speech, and for the second time, choral singing. Atmosphere is lifted to umpteenth level by a fantastic usage of samples. The soundscape is echoing, never in-your-face, but giving wide panoramas of stories told. The sound is pretty much organic even though samples can genuinely be something of contradictory, but believe me, when worked like this, it's a very lively sonic world the band create. I really can't imagine how a person who doesn't know the works of J.R.R. Tolkien hears Summoning, but I, a moderate fan of his writings, am easily absorbed into the sonical world of Summoning.
When the first notes of 'Bauglir' chime into my ears, I am immediately taken to the Middle-earth. The lyrical content of this album is based on the stories and poems from "The Silmarillion" era which is like a history book for the folks living in the Middle-earth. Anyways, 'Bauglir', featuring threatening speech from Morgoth, perfectly sets the atmosphere for this long journey, which is both an awesome and a tedious one. A ten-minute 'Across the Streaming Tide' is genuine Summoning, which continues the flow of the music very well with its wintry feel. Orcs' march song, 'Mirdautas Vras' is the first song ever performed by the band in black language of the orcs, this also borrows the orc-horn from the movies of Peter Jackson (I have to thank this MASTER of silver screen somehow, so here it goes). The atmosphere can't get any higher than during this song! The next song crystallizes in its title: 'Might and Glory'. And 'Beleriand' follows this easily by telling a story of a region by this name, also known as "land of the dead". Piano-lead 'Northward' isn't on the same quality level, even though it is far from bad. I find 'Menegroth' as one of the worst Summoning songs ever, as it runs through too well known territories and turns out to be a boring song, unlike the majority of Summoning creations. The melancholic, grand closer 'Land of the Dead' however lifts the album's quality to high level again, where it belongs to. The sound is more full and better than on early Summoning releases, which sound a bit too "midi" sometimes. The artwork is magnificent, really suitable and raises the atmosphere and perfectly suits to the package.
As an old Summoning worshipper, but not a real Tolkien-fanatic (his writings are the only fantasy books I've ever read), I see 'Oath Bound' like a conglomeration of my favourite ever Summoning album 'Dol Guldur' (1996) and 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame'. The album features some of the greatest Summoning songs ever (especially during the first half), but also a boring one which feels like it's just a filler among the greats. Anyways, 'Oath Bound' is a must for Tolkien fans, as well as those who want to find truly otherworldly (metal) music, that bites the spirit!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2007)
Five long years had passed since Summoning released “Let the mortal heroes sing your fame”, an astonishingly epic album hailed by a lot of fans as the epitome of this unique Austrian band’s career. After this release the founding members Silenus and Protector disappeared under the mist, rumours about a new work were spread intensively but sadly no official news appeared during a long period of time. Finally the band announced its comeback with a new opus called “ Oath Bound” which supposed the long-awaited return to Middle Earth’s based lyrics.
When the album cover was unveiled every fan knew that something big was going to come, undoubtfuly Oath Bound´s artwork was the best of Summoning´s discography and was a visual warning of how majestic this album was going to be. Stylistically this work doesn’t differ too much from the previous albums, perhaps the main difference between “Oath Bound” and LTMHSYF is that OB recovered part of the old strenght of the guitars. Don’t misunderstand me, since “Minas Morgul” the guitars had been in a second line surfaced by the indisputable prominence of the keys and the atmospheric arrangements, this aspect has never changed but with OB Silenius and Protector created some interesting guitar lines and when the album was recorded they gave to the guitars a bigger presence and volume. In my opinion this decision was absolutely correct, mainly because it permited the songs to have a better balance between rawness and the atmospheric touch, which was perhaps the one little mistake of Let the heroes. So this album could be considered a logic continuation of Summoning´s traditional style, with very few changes and some new additions, as the first time use of a real flute in the epic anthem Land of the dead, or the interesting use of the black language of Mordor in Mirdautas Vas.
“Oath Bound” stars with the usual short intro which has nothing remarkable but its nice to listen and creates the necessary excitement to introduce us in this formidable journey through the Middle Earth. The initial song called Across the Streaming Tide is a perfect example of what Summoning is, the incomparable combination of raspy vocals, tremolo picked guitars and haunting atmosphere, as in the past the production is sufficiently row but at the same time clean. Mirdautas Vas begins with a highly recognizable war march drum style, the song is leaded by trumpet sounds(artificially created by programmed keys) and the march of an orch army, while Silenious screams give the neccesary strenght to the song, other remarkable aspect is that it is sang in the dark language invented by Tolkien, this detail reinforces the sense of eerie atmosphere of the song. Might and Glory in another beautiful piece where the guitars recover their relevance in combination with the obiquitous keyboards, which marvellous melodies are always capable of hipnotizing the listener, drawning us into the imaginary world of the Middle Earth, other excellent arrangements as raven sounds or a solemn choir help to fill out the ensemble. Beleriand is perhaps my favourite composition of this album, with an astonishing initial epic riff accompained by a simple but haunting key melody, Silenious vocals are simple awesome and highly emotive as always, the song itself is an unstoppable ode to the ancient battles of which grandeur is indescriptible. Albeit it doesn´t exist a single mediocre song in this album its no my intention to comment all of them, nevertheless under no circunstancies could I forget to mention and glorify the last song of this masterpiece, perhaps the most magnificent song that Summoning has ever composed, Land of the Dead. A delicate and precious piano melody commences this majestic anthem, followed by the first time used real flute which enhances the breathtaking atmosphere of this composition. When you reach the eighth minute of this song a daunting and tremendous choir appears, its imposible not to be moved while you are listening it, especially in the last part when this beautiful choir shares the stardom with the evoking flute, simply marvellous!!.
Overall the album is perfect from the very beginning to the very end, being a incredible combination of all those elements that make Summoning such a unique and marvellous band. Its extremely praiseworthy how these two musicians can create such an epic and shattering music with a simple key, guitar and drum machine, no enormous budgets or productions are needed to represent perfectly the legendary world of Tolkien. A must have for every fan of Summoning, Tolkien writings or epic soundtracks.
Summoning, next to Blind Guardian, are probably the most faithful Tolkien themed metal band out there. These guys really know their stuff and include in their lyrics excerpts from some of his most obscure poems. But what I really love about this band is their absolutely brilliant ability to perfectly capture the mood of the subject matter of the lyrics, in this case having to do with Hurin and the curse on his family (taken from the Silmarillion).
Summoning are like few other metal bands; their music, to be blunt, is very slow and very repetitive. However, the melodies that they repeat are so well thought out and so well written that it produces a vast, deep feel to the music that's unlike any other I've heard. In combination with the plodding and heavy drums devoid of any blastbeats or double bass or even typical metal beats, murky production and non-linear songwriting, Summoning produce music that is completely worthy of the Silmarillion.
There are some truly epic (and not cheesy epic) tracks here, with one of my favorites being Beleriand. The entire song and particularly the chorus ischilling; I'd go so far as to say that this song more or less defines what "epic" should mean. Every song here is long, slow and winding and takes its time building up and up and up, sometimes ending with a climax and sometimes ending with utter silence. The vocals fit perfectly with the music, while not in and of themselves overly amazing screeches and rasps.
If there's one high point here, its the final song, Land of the Dead. This song may just be the greatest metal song ever written; without giving anything away I can say that it is by far Summonings greatest song and an absolute achievement in every way. Absolutely spellbinding in its composition of simplicity and simply one of the most brilliant songs I've ever heard.
This is one of my all time favorite metal (if one call really call it "metal" as there is experimentation with ambient, martial ambient, and several other genres here) and in my opinion a landmark for metal as a whole. This isn't crushingly heavy, mindbogglingly technical or even all that extreme. This is the spirit of Tolkien's Middle-earth captured in musical form.
This is certainly not the epitomal work of Summoning, and it may be a strange new journey full of elves, magic forests, hobbits, and warm hugs from Uncle Tolkien, but how is any of this different from their previous albums? They still dodge the major pitfalls but track a little dirt indoors with some small things. They are still awesome just a little more adult and ambient and a little more old and queer, and i don't mean queer in a "homo" way, just in a "one adult hobbit male saying 'I love you' to another adult hobbit male" kind of way. But that is why we LOVE them. Summoning just like hobbits are allowed to do this kind of thing because it is in their nature.
In a point-by-point comparison this really a top-shelf album. Sure it isn't the awe inspiring "Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame," but i will do. now that we have that out of the way just look at who is doing this work, and what their intention is. Protector and Silenius were aiming for a transcendental romp across Arda without the gay midget kids in tow. Did they complete this? I think we know the answer here. look at who is doing the work- two guys who have been at it for fifteen years! Just two of them! And i am not afraid to say it this album is far more tolerable than most other black metal duets. *cough* Abbath and Horg *cough* Clearly they wish to keep the project as intimate as possible rather than just letting anyone come play drums. plus if i'm not mistaken it would take either several drummers or one drummer in several recordings by what it sounds like. Im not saying that it sounds like a lot of people drumming at once but rather a variety of kinds of drums. e.g.- Mirdautas Vras uses huge war drum sound then a military sounding snare, the middle of the song just before the tuba (I know right! Who the fuck said the could put a tuba in black metal? )has a kettle drum sound, then they seem to finish the song with a regular drum set. Of course they used a freakin drum machine! But, i do admit, after fifteen years someone could have learned to play the drums to the extent that they need them. I'm no drummer but I think if I tried I could pull off what the need in a few months of practice.
This brings my next point though! To everyone that whines about the recording being to roomy, misty, layered, muddled, flat, strained so on etc.? Seriously? Screw you! Maybe I can agree with "strained," but "misty and roomy?" What the hell does that even mean? I will go ahead and apologize for them not using the traditional black metal recording method: opening all the windows and door of the house while screaming from the basement at a microphone attached to a kite flying forty feet above in a thunderstorm. Whoops i'm talking about black metal! change the words "house", "basement", and "thunderstorm" into "castle," "crypt," and "eternal frozen north wind" respectively. Get over yourself.
Yes, there are uneventful points of the music, but i think that Summoning's music is written in the same fashion that Tolkien wrote L.O.T.R. Yes, it has bland parts that droll on about nothing but it makes the album one step closer to what it would be like to really be in middle earth, which I amount to a metric shit-ton of walking before a single orc shows up. Before I know the words and translations and lyrics or even the title of any song by Summoning I get a damn good idea of what they mean, and that is what music is about: the universal conveyance of emotion. in the same way that a scientist/mathematician can express a fact to you with a formula or equation, this band can convey to the listener the experience of witnessing the heroic and villainous deeds of the history of middle earth.
To get on the subject of what they did right! First is ambiance! This is AMBIENT black metal! It is all background sleepy-time carry-you-off-to-middle-earth-time music. The second isn't that they made the plunge into the icy black waters of dork-hood ( That happened long before they even formed this band), and not even that they learned to survive in those lonely frozen depths by accepting it, but they released any chance of climbing out, drying off and getting laid by singing an entire song in the black speech of Mordor. Man, the Austrian chicks must love the fact that they can say "it's a good day to kill" in orcish. The samples are very tastefully done here where with most bands, samples almost seem to detract from the experience. And lastly is that metal tuba? Seriously this has to be a first.
Standout tracks: Bauglirv, Mirdautas Vras, Land of the Dead
4.5 / 5.0
Summoning’s songs have long straddled the line between the ridiculous and the sublime. The keys are kept in check just enough, the drums huge and overblown but still helping the song along, the guitar adding in a little bit of distortion and making the whole thing less embarrassing to listen to, everything repeated a huge amount number of times but still interesting. It’s all kept in check, a perfect balancing act; there’s a real sort of yin/yang/harmony/eastern religion thing going on with these guys. Unfortunately, as with many bands plying the “odd formulas that somehow work” trade, it’s relatively easy to fall away from the tightrope and fall a long, long way. Summoning haven’t quite plunged to their deaths yet, but they’re starting to look a little wobbly.
Most of this stuff comes across as a demo quality take on Let Mortal Heroes. Whereas every other album Summoning album has that crisp, cutting production aspect to it, this one is all muddy and roomy, everything blending into a mid-heavy haze that isn’t bad (but I do love my reverb) but doesn’t work terribly well for these guys. The guitar tone’s shit and nothing’s all the distinct, it seems that Summoning have tried copying the “bury everything under everything else” tactic from various black metal bands. It’s pretty disappointing, and the problems certainly don’t end there.
The tunes are, for the most part, lacking. Most tunes pass you by in a vaguely symphonic blur, the synth lines have been heard a million times before and there’s not a lot here that’s terribly catchy. The riffs are these somewhat boring arpeggios, the vocals still not all that amazing, and the drums pretty unoriginal and fairly stale. A very fitting term that describes this album would be “blurry”. It’s all indistinct and kind of smeared around- the production, the song writing, the whole atmosphere. There’s nothing particularly clear about what this album aims to be and what it means. You kind of sense that perhaps this is because there’s not a lot standing behind this album- not that I’ve ever really believed that Summoning have had some super deep concepts behind them, but this album seems quite trivial and shallow.
Overall, I guess you liken this record to the 2nd part of a fantasy trilogy (an analogy I’m sure these guys would approve of). Things look grim; nonetheless a glimmer of hope remains. “Beleriad” is a fairly typical Summoning tune; the usual synths, some shimmering tremelo-d guitar, nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s just a damn good one- quite catchy and epic, as you’d expect from these guys. It’s a good tune, but nothing compared to the absolute beast that is “Land of the Dead”. This is where all the Summoning elements come together in that elusive, otherworldly mix that few other bands can hope to achieve. The clean choir vocals, the guitar riffs, the flute… It’s kind of perverse that the fruitiest and most repetitive song on this album could clearly be the best, but Summoning have always thrived on merciless repetition and massive-ness. It’s the usual bizarre Summoning paradox- these guys have gone beyond the realms of self parody and ended up with what’s easily the best song of their career. An utterly amazing tune that makes this album worth owning.
I guess you could sum this album as “Fairly boring Summoning, but with an amazing final song”. I only really enjoyed 20 minutes out of the 70 on offer here, so a low score would be justified. However, I feel no need to be objective and besides, I love Land of the Dead so I’m giving this a 50.
After listening to Summoning’s Oath Bound the first word that came to mind was “epic.” Months later it is the same word I use to describe this album. Epic is a vague word and can be used to describe a lot of metal, but Summoning have perfectly used the right ingredients to make a larger-than-life album without going over the top and becoming cheesy or generic. In fact originality is something that Summoning have become known for since their 1994 debut Lugburz. This is due to the things that fans have come to expect from the duo of Summoning such as excellent musicianship, great and somewhat unconventional vocals, and of course, music inspired primarily by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Summoning haven’t necessarily made a huge evolutionary transformation throughout their career but with Oath Bound they seem to have put more emphasis on the atmosphere by making lengthy songs that grasp the listener throughout the duration and entrance them into a fantasy world. To say this album is a concept album would be misleading but the songs beautifully flow into one another, making it hard to listen to just one at a time. Samples are used but not abused and are only placed within a song when it adds to the feel (Mirdautas Vras) which is also apparently the only song in the world with all of the lyrics in the Black Tongue. Choirs are used in several songs but once again, only where necessary and where they will add something to the track. In fact on my personal favourite Might and Glory the choir is one of the highlights of the album and on Land of the Dead it makes a great conclusion to the CD. It was tempting to give this album a perfect 100% score but there are times near the middle where the music begins to get repetitive and moments where you find there are things that just aren’t adding to the big picture. Needless to say these rare moments do not impair or overshadow the many more magnificent moments of the music and are soon forgotten.
Keyboards are used effectively on this release and definitely do not smother the rest of the music like some other bands. Guitar is a highlight but also used minimally and only when needed. As mentioned earlier the raspy vocal shrieks seem somewhat unconventional in that they are used in a background sort of way, as if they are just another instrument being added to the sound which I found most interesting.
It’s hard to think of whom to recommend this album to as it is very unique sounding. Nevertheless it certainly isn’t hard to appreciate. Summoning have really created something special with Oath Bound, something that should not be overlooked or underrated.
I will be the first to admit I am not fond of this type of music, it isn't the silly fantasy themes and theatrics that put me off, admittedly I do enjoy some aspects of fantasy in entertainment and literature. The problem with this type of music is that it is almost never done well. Back when I was just discovering the genre of black metal I went through myriads of this sort of music, I was willing to give almost anything a listen, be it folk, pagan, Viking or any other type of "black metal" that would rely on the imagery that was brought forth through the music with arrangements, use of various traditional instruments, certain production values and orchestration. This type of music almost always fails in its delivery, for the most part the compositions go absolutely nowhere and the songwriting is very weak and lacks any direction, it as if there is no one competent enough to pull this type of thing off. Despite all the hype around this two man project, all the rave reviews and the many fans that proclaim their works as masterpieces, Summoning are no exception and are completely uninspired.
After hearing so much about this band I finally decided to check them out a year or so ago, it was this album I first obtained, tried listening to it a few times but ended up deleting it to make room for something more interesting. It was only recently, after reading their laughable political statement I decided to give them another listen and write an accurate review but I kept putting it off because of lack of interest and willingness to obtain an album of theirs. Lucky for you and me, I was looking in my computers recycling bin and to my surprise, this album was still sitting in there a year later so now I had no excuse not to review it.
Summoning are a quite prominent force coming from Austria, this duo is heavily inspired by the works of Tolkien and other forms of fantasy, just like another modern incarnation of fantasy, Harry Potter, Summonings brand of epic metal, full of bombastic compositions has been bringing wonder and amazement to children worldwide. From looking at the artwork and reading the lyrics, you know what Summoning is all about without even listening to a note of music, they want to put the fantasy that is contained in Middle-Earth to music. That is what they may want to do, but they certainly don't. The opener immediately reminds me of something you would hear as an intro to an old Zelda game or any other Nintendo fantasy game. As the music continues the sound matures and graduates to the more modern sound of a Playstation game soundtrack. This music is described as "Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal", but after the first couple songs it is clear this has little do with black metal. The music on this release remains consistently uninteresting, the compositions are completely unmemorable and are simply a mess. I would have thought after so many albums this band would know how to produce their music so the full effect is felt but that is not the case as the production on this release is ill-fitted for this type of music.The guitars are simply way too overpowering and when the vocals and keys kick in it sounds like each instrument is fighting for the foreground of the music. This isn't really a huge deal but I get the feeling this could have been done a lot better. The main problem with this release is the sheer incompetence of the people writing the music. These compositions go absolutely nowhere, the keys build up to something which could potentially be quite interesting but then it stops and the loop starts over. These people should really learn a thing or two about songwriting before they decide take their instruments out and record another album. I get the feeling these people have the illusion they are great composers but just like all others like them that wish to bring great arrangements and orchestrations to modern music, they are not. There is really nothing special about this music, the vocals are pretty standard and full of effects, the drums sound pretty good for being programmed and they are the framework of the music, but they stay in the same almost tribal style throughout, uninteresting drum work to compliment the uninteresting compositions. Nothing new at all in the guitar department, the guitar carries the music along with the keys and sticks to patterns that don't progress or amount to anything. After an hour of this nonsense it is finally over and I am left with the feeling that this could have been done a lot better if the people behind it put more thought into what they were doing. Overall this is just another overrated and unmemorable release.
This gets some points because from what I have heard of their releases before this, there has been some progression, as well as a couple interesting moments but this is largely a failure. This is a very unimaginative release for a band that relies so heavily on fantasy. This is above all the projects coming out now which consist of opening Fruity Loops and layering some synth lines, but what isn't? My advice to all who wish to create something like this is stop thinking you're some great composer because you aren't and your music will suck. 20/100.
Insert a coin, lad, crank the good old Summoning hurdy-gurdy up, and it will be once again playing its immortal refrains from Middle-Earth.
Summoning must share this common point with Manowar that, at least, after all these years the potential listener knows exactly what he’s buying. Like most Summoning releases Oath Bound has the majesty, might and beauty of the great vast ocean, and in spite of this it’s also painfully annoying, frustrating, boring. Why? Some may like sitting on a cliff and keep on gazing at the furious sea the whole day, as it’s for sure an impressive sight. But how many people would like listening to a RECORDING of the sea crashing on the shore for more than ten minutes? Pretty monotonous, wouldn’t you think so?
That’s how the songs from the infamous Austrian duet always sounded to me; like ocean slices put in a sardines box, rotting while waiting to be imperfectly warmed up in a CD player. Settling into the mysterious and unexplored niche of epic-atmospheric-keyboard-driven-black-metal, if one really needs to put a tag on the nearly indescribable sort of music displayed here, had indeed been a spark of genius, but it’s been pretty much the only one the act has showed in its almost fifteen years of existence. Not only the guys are always more or less playing the same song (a characteristic they’re nonetheless sharing with a good thousand of existing bands), but the artistic value of said song is also questionable – regardless of, once again, how unique it sounds at first glance.
The drums, for instance, are quickly and strikingly nerve-breaking. I don’t care for them being programmed, as I suppose a genuine drummer wouldn’t have radically changed the deal, though the constantly sharp, resounding sound of the machine might introduce a supplementary matter of annoyance. The main problem is, the drums line is exactly copied and pasted in a totally identical fashion through the eight tracks of this LONG release. It most of time consists in military tom-tom rolls reinforced by a hit on the snare at the beginning of each bar – and that pretty much sums it up. Actually, the reason for the use of a drum machine is evident, as a human drummer would most certainly give up before the end of the recording session.
Guitars are raspy but shapeless, and identifying a few riffs isn’t easy challenge. The bass is lost. So-called amazing vocals of Silenius and Protector don’t really differ from the ones fronting more traditional BM bands, being indeed the most black-ish element here, together with the overall misty production. And eventually, there are the piano and keyboards – not anonymous keyboards, you know, but THE keyboards, almost with a capital K in their quality of key of the whole work. Now I’ve nothing against keyboards, those being often necessary means of thickening a song or suggesting an atmosphere, provided they remain discrete. But when keyboards come to play the part usually devoted to guitars, and guitars play the part usually devoted to keyboards, something has gone out of place. And that’s where Summoning must fail. Keyboards and programmed orchestrations can’t perpetually take possession of the front of the scene without making the music end in a puddle of fake-sounding pomp. POMP. Summoning is more pompous than late 19th century painting, more indigestible than this low-cost food hidden under a pool of artificially sugared sauce to hide its intrinsic mediocrity. Keyboards-sugared sauce, reinforced by a supplementary layer of Tolkien gimmick.
Let’s be fair, Summoning is for once not responsible for it, but nowadays using and abusing of Tolkien-related themes has become really old and tiring. And pushing the gimmick so far as writing a song in the Orc language only conducts to adding another stone to the edifice of ridicule; without mentioning the dragons’ roars and other findings in the same vein I thought only Rhapsody still dared to employ. After the last notes from the choirs of Land of the Dead – which on a sidenote is probably the least predictable, thus best song of the whole release – have evaporated, all that remains is the feeling of a huge, grandiloquent, bombastic, but also particularly empty and futile, exercise. So, worthless, Oath Bound? Worthless, Summoning? No. Stupidly overrated for sure, but at least one irremovable point remains. It’s still furiously EPIC.
Highlights: Land of the Dead (and it’s not only because it at least exhibits ONE real instrument – a flute)
"Oath Bound" by Summoning essentially sums up all that is left of epic metal nowadays. The band synthesizes the primary aspect of the atmosphere they create with keyboards and whatnot, with the exception of the flute, which can be found on "Land of the Dead," the standout track from this CD. Essentially, what we have here is what is usually expected from artists who synthesize most of their instruments--layer upon layer of complex and seemingly incoherent melodies that somehow fit together in the end.
And fit together it does. In fact, this is done so well that we'd all be listening to industrial if the artists put out as much effort as these guys did on this particular release. The easiest example of this to understand is the first track, which comes in with melody upon melody, which build up as the song goes on, in a manner that usually annoys me because it seems so damned condescending, but works since it's the introduction to the album, not just a song. Unfortunately, they do this for several of their tracks, but have the sensibility not to subject us to this "layer-by-layer" introduction regarding the transitions between sections of the songs.
The guitars often find themselves playing arpeggios at such a consistent cadence that you hardly notice their presence among synthesized flutes, drums, trumpets, choirs, etc. This is a very good technique, as you're more inclined to pick up on the melodies rather than the instruments playing them. The drums, of course, stand out as well, with their epic war-drum-esque pounding.
Each song is very unique, to the point where I prefer to listen to them individually rather than as a whole, as each song is an epic within itself. It's essentially sonic storytelling, and creates a very good atmosphere to do so. "Northward" seems to beg one to make up a story for it, speaking of travels and leaving everything behind. Lyrics are based on Tolkien, but I say it's best to leave it up to yourself to create significance behind them.
This is the epitome of epic songwriting, and I highly recommend purchasing this CD if you enjoy black metal or just plain epic music. Kind of makes you want to don a helmet and a sword and march off to war.
If someone approached me a year ago and told me to imagine what "Sludge Black Metal" would sound like... I would have had no idea. A year later... Summoning's "Oath Bound" is released and here I sit, after at least 25 listens to this album, still absolutely stumped about how I am going to go about writing up a review for this record.
I'll start by briefly talking about why I love metal, and see if this can't help.
Metal to me, is so much fun, because so much of it is very cartoonish and silly. I'm by no means a Satanist, and my religious "beliefs" probably fall more on the Atheist/Agnostic side. That said, I really don't care what a lot of these bands sing about, write about, or burn down. That's their prerogative. As long as I get great music out of the deal... by all means let them do what they need to do or wear what they need to wear in order to accomplish this.
Many of these bands are VERY over the top in whatever theme they write about, whether it's about epic battles, Viking lore, Satanic rituals, or even Spacemen. But the over the top aspect of it is half the fun for me. Like turning on Saturday morning cartoons, I can sink myself into some other world and come out of it in a good mood. The sometimes goofy corpse paint, bandoleers, swords, and all that nonsense just add to the fun sometimes. Metal, in a way, has become a parody of it's self, and I'm completely okay with that because that's partly why I fell in love with it in the first place.
Summoning, somehow, is not one of these bands. How they are so far beyond "over the top" or much more awesome because of there themes and lyrical content is beyond me. But they really are. I really think it just has to come down to artistic direction and integrity.
Oath Bound is a completely different monster from anything else I had ever heard before in my life. Before Oath Bound, I was VERY unfamiliar with most of Summoning's work, so needless to say the plodding war drumming styles that flow throughout this entire disc (seventy nine minutes in length) was most definitely a surprise to me. I'll even admit, I was a bit hesitant at this concept at first because I'm so used to insanely fast tempos, blast beats, and the like. But the perfection that these war drums pound into the listener's ears is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to how well done this album is.
Lyrically, from what a friend of mine and I deduced, this album is about the Dead Men of Dunharrow. Each song from beginning to end seems to tell the tale from when they were told by Isildur that they would not find rest or peace until they fulfilled their oath, until many years later when they did.
What Summoning does so well with this, which I believe is their finest album to date, is use repetition and simplicity to form perfection. The songs are not too long, nor are they too short. Flowing in and out of simple guitar riffs using flutes, chanting melodic vocals, harsh vocals and of course the aforementioned war drumming. It is known by many at this point, but track 3, "Mirdautas vras" is also written lyrically and sang in the Black Speech of Mordor. This alone is not only incredibly impressive, but sinks you into the entire atmosphere of the album even more so.
What this album doesn't have is any type of guitar solo whatsoever. In fact even the guitar structures are as simple as the almost Mother-Goose lyrics. Not to undermine the lyrics however, as the way they are written seems to be yet another nod to Tolkein's poetry strewn throughout his various works.
This entire album is a journey, from the incredible intro track to the extremely satisfying and rewarding end. While this style of music, or metal, is not for everyone... including metal fans, to me it's incredibly worth each minute it takes to sit and listen to something of this magnitude. Sitting and listening to this album would be the equality of curling up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. I believe that's precisely what Summoning intended on doing in the first place.
The latest release from epic black metal band Summoning is called 'Oath Bound'. Summoning changed a little over the years. The style of their older albums was harsher and relied less on movie-like atmospheres created by keyboards and samples, they were a bit more on the black metal side of things. Those that may have expected them to go back to this sound entirely on 'Oath Bound' might be a bit disappointed but if you enjoyed the last album, 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame', which was released back in 2003, you will not be let down by this one. Oath Bound is essentially a logical continuation in this same style. Lyrically the band is still heavily inspired by fantasy settings, Tolkien and the Lord of The Rings trilogy.
The album starts out with 'Bauglir', a song which instantly creates a very epic atmosphere but merely serves as an intro. The next songs have names such as 'Across The Streaming Tide', 'Might and Glory', 'Northward' and 'Land of the Dead'. Several of the tracks on Oath Bound make you feel like you're standing on the edge of a battlefield before marching off to meet the enemy in all out medieval warfare. Both Silenius' and Protector's harsh vocals, the subtle layers of black metal riffing and the pounding rhytm of the drum machine have a hypnotising effect on the listener throughout the album. A track carrying the name of 'Mirdautas Vras' seems to be somewhat of a unique endeavour seeing as the lyrics of this one are written completely in the Lord of The Ring's black language of Mordor. Samples of groaning, chanting, marching and even screeching birds are repeatedly used throughout the album, effectively transforming the bulk of the songs into bombastic masterpieces. The clean vocals first used in the song 'Farewell' on the last album make their return and work just as well here.
Yes, it seems like the creative minds of Protector and Silenius are certainly oath bound. Bound to an oath to their listeners to keep on delivering excellent albums.
Originally written for www.gothtronic.com