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"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.