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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.