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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)