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Summoning is one of those rare bands that can write two riffs, piece them together perfectly and make a 10+ minute masterpiece out of it. Old Mornings Dawn, like previous albums in Summoning's discography, shares the same song structuring. Slow, plodding, epic progressions that inspire a yearning for travel in the realm of Tolkien's famed fictional realm. As a long time Summoning fan, I feel that this album has been well worth the wait. It brings back a somewhat similar feel/quality to Oath Bound and older albums such as Minas Morgul and Dol Guldur. It's often great to hear a band go back to their roots. Old Mornings Dawn, however, is better than the aforementioned albums in almost every way. The production and progressions, for me, are just better. It's hard to pinpoint how exactly, though.
The production is not far off perfect for the intended sound the band is trying to convey - raw, epic, and atmospheric, if perhaps a tad quiet, though. The vocals of the orc vs. knight duet are brilliant as usual and they fit their unique styles to each of the songs seamlessly and fittingly. All instruments are clear and shine through at appropriate times. The obviously synthetic classical and medieval instruments meld extremely well with the guitars, creating a nice layered effect. The chants are more intense and heartfelt than ever. Summoning are one of the most passionate bands I've heard and you can hear it all throughout this album. A significant amount of time and effort has been put into Old Mornings Dawn.
Specific songs that really draw my attention are the title track Old Mornings Dawn, The Wandering Fire, and of course the album's masterpiece, Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves. These songs possess the best progressions and sense of epic feeling. Of Pale White Morn... is possibly the best song Summoning has ever written. There are samples of what sound like Ringwraiths shrieks and maybe beorning howls or something, and regardless of their lore they sound amazing and really add to the overall atmosphere of the song. Like the Ringwraith samples, David Seys' narration on the title track really complete the song and further promotes the epic feeling of the album.
If epic/atmospheric black metal is your kind of shit, then give this a album a listen. if it's not, then I guess you live a pretty sad life.
Stick a fork in 'em, because Summoning are well done. Three albums in twelve years, with Old Mornings Dawn being the most offensive by quite a margin. Oath Bound suffered from a number of excessively protracted, featureless bores like "Northward" and "Across the Streaming Tide", but it still had the wherewithal to deliver the goods when backed into a corner. Old Mornings Dawn, on the other hand, just flops over on it's side at dies when required to feature any sort of emotion other than the most archetypal Summoning tropes. The band's old life laying behind in the mists, with certainly no adventure to be found here.
I can't help but get the impression that most of this material was recorded during various spurts over the past seven years. Some songs like "Flammifer" come off as Oath Bound B-sides, while others defy categorization on any level, being wholly different from anything else in Summoning's catalogue. The guitar tone is one of the biggest culprits, embodying a crunchy, overdriven aesthetic that the band has never experimented with in the past. On a superficial level it makes it easier to discern some of the riffs like the opening of "The White Tower", and from this viewpoint alone it is a step in the right direction. The problem begins to manifest itself when the band steps back into the droning background ambiance that makes up the bulk of their material. The roomy, spacious reverb that worked on albums like Oath Bound clashes with the crunchy tone here, diffusing into what sounds like background static. This isn't always the case, as the guitars' tone can shift and vary wildly, again indicating that Old Mornings Dawn was recorded over an extended period of time. It just lacks consistency all around.
It's still Summoning, but without much of note going on within it's haughty confines, the castle begins to crumble and decay. Check out "Caradhras", which while not only falling flatter than the Pelennor Fields on an instrumental level, features Silenius aimlessly yowling away with little rhyme or reason. Protector is still the far superior vocalist, and the fact that he is featured on less tracks than Silenius adds another strike against the band. The more tribal than ever percussion might seem interesting at first blush, but through it the band finds themselves drifting farther away from the trademark Summoning sound and closer to some sort of amorphous world music.
The keyboards even fail to break any new ground, in fact devolving into cornball hash like on the intro "Evernight". Summoning has always been careful to tread a thin line in this regard, but the choir patch they pulled out of the vault for this album is anything but appealing. It makes the band sound more dated than ever, and serves to get the proceedings off to a piss-poor start. "Rhûn" it certainly is not. The band just can't get their ducks in a row here; one minute coming close to Oath Bound levels of quality with "Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves" (which unabashedly ganks the intro from "Where Hope and Daylight Die"), the next churning out what seems like multiple rehashes of "South Away". I don't expect the band to reinvent the wheel in any instance, but this is just inexcusable after such an extended downtime.
Some songs manage to squeeze by by virtue of some sort of accidental balancing act on the band's part. The bonus track "The Darkening of Valinor" is a decent enough, concise riff driven number that highlights the new guitar tone nicely. The melodies are ripe enough, and it doesn't overstay it's welcome, so not a bad deal there. "The Wandering Fire" is also enjoyable enough, featuring some Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame-era melodies alongside Protector's spacious roars. Regardless, even these would fall through the cracks on virtually every other Summoning album, save for the lame duck Dol Guldur.
Old Mornings Dawn has certainly appeased Summoning's fan base, who I believe were relieved to receive a new album on the principle that the band was even still alive. In that light, it certainly serves it's purpose, and I am still glad that Protector and Silenius are churning out the goods, as it is the job never started that takes the longest to finish. Regardless, this is still far from the band's finest hour. Recommended for die-hard fans only.
A gap as lengthy as 7 years was always going to mean that there would be fans of Summoning who would declare this album to be the best of the year even before hearing a note of it- and those people will certainly find comfort in how unreservedly in the band's comfort zone this is. A 7 year gap it may be, but musically there is no gap here; this picks up exactly where Oath Bound left off, and that gives Summoning's critics all the more fuel than ever before.
Harsh vocals aside it is pretty fair to see that Summoning are not or have ever really been a Black Metal band. The cracker tremelo-laden riff early in “The White Tower” that has a certain Absurd-vibe to it is an exception, but otherwise this is missing the key component of Metal for most of the duration. There are electric guitars of course, but for the most part they are background noise, almost like an element of the production rather than music. They are there to give a mid-tone buzz for atmosphere- nothing else. More than ever then Summoning seem to have more in common with the Electro-Ambient, and especially World Music, genres- witnessed especially by the drumming on “Caradhras” and “Of Pale White Morns And Darkened Eves” where pygmy-exploiting soundscapers Deep Forest are evoked.
The intro to “The Wandering Fire” has to be the lowest point for the drumming where it becomes so kitsch that it has more in common than Cliff Richard's Worldbeat forays than anything Metal, but overall the sound is pretty terrible. At first it might be said that it has charm, and I suppose some kudos most go to Summoning for being probably the only Metal band who can use a drum machine in this day and age and not get scorn heaped upon them by their fans- but at the same time it is pretty ridiculous that such a successful and respected act have a drum sound worse than the PC game Age Of Empires II.
On a personal level the main reason why I have turned my nose up at bands like Summoning in the past is because of how my interest in Pagan/Folk Metal is partly influenced by a love for traditional/Folk music and a socio-anthropological interest in mythology. Bands who lyrical exist entirely in the realms of fantasy, and who draw musical influence a from purely imagined notion of medievalism and ancient musicality have never had nearly as much appeal to me. That is still true on this album, but as always Summoning's talent for crafting epic melodies and arrangements has to be respected. Unfortunately though in this, their main strength, Summoning come up short compared to previous albums. The bouzouki-dominated instrumental break that leads into the album's best melody occurs on “Flammifer”, 2 tracks in, and creates an early peak that is not quite lived up to by the rest of the album- and when you are taking about an album over an hour long even without the bonus tracks, peaking early is fairly disastrous.
The latter half of the album does have a few points worthy of mention; the glossal keyboard sections interspersed with woodwind solos on “The Wandering Fire”, the Quorthon-esque vocals on closer “Earthshine” and the surprisingly oriental feel to the bowed strings on “Of Pale White Morns And Darkened Eves”, but nothing to give that classic album-making factor. If anything this album is too restrained when it comes to the melodies and arrangements, and restraint is not something Summoning do well. This is definitely a Summoning record- just in the larger picture of their discography it is not a very good one. [6/10]
From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts
Have you ever wished that "Lord of the Rings" movies had better soundtrack or wished to hear some nice music inspired by LotR as a whole? Well, wish no more Summoning is here, and they have been for quite a long time (from 1993 to be exact). If you are a fan of metal as well you probably know about them and are a fan. But, yet more people need to know about this awesome band. On a simpler explanation, their music can be described as atmospheric black metal inspired by Tolkien, but it is so much more. These musicians can create a middle-earth in our minds on a whole new different level. This album is their latest effort, which actually is after a long gap of 7 years, following which might have been (according to some) their greatest release "Oath Bound". So naturally Summoning have a lot to prove, and although they might not have reached new grounds with this one but they still are very good at what they do and what they do is worship Middle-earth in a black metal way.
Summoning is definitely not a typical black metal band, in fact some would say they have completely shaded their black metal roots after delving this much into melody and implementation of orchestral elements into their backdrop of bass work familiar to black metal and repetitive yet thoroughly engrossing riff-work. There is so much to offer in their view of black metal, you get your typical dreary feeling but with a clearer view of landscapes and a beautiful insight into the minds of their Tolkien worshiping melancholy. Never had there been such a finer influenced form of music that complements its origin so much.
Despite their use of overall melodic approach at black metal with beautiful keyboard tunes and exquisitely crafted guitar riffs that enchant the listener into a vision of another world, Summoning implements somewhat typical black vocals. Although there are clearly spoken words and even some female epic vocals the use of blackish growls really complements their musical style. Keyboard works on the whole album is one of the key elements of the atmosphere with its outstanding capability to enrich our imaginations through its orthodox yet unique methods. Its not very hard to assess that the band uses drum programming which although at times pales in comparison to their other instruments is actually quite better than their earlier releases. The guest vocals are also a welcome element as it gives the overall vocal aspect variation keeping in accordance with the musical side which is so varied indeed.
Although there is not much flaw in this album in my opinion as you can tell from my previous appraisal, their are some drawbacks. The nature of any album of any band such as Summoning is that you have to compare it to the artists previous records. As in case Summoning their last 2-3 albums were the pinnacle of their achievement by far and really hard to follow as they have become a true underground metal giant through those records. So when one compares their latest effort with those it lacks somethings in comparison. The epic element in those releases is still present but unlike those records "Old Mornings Dawn" never really tries to achieve new grounds and just follows the pattern set by Summonings well tested style and that really is a bit of a disappointment. The songs are a bit too simplistic in some regards and never really aspires for that over arching vision that previous records did and that is a shame really.
At the end of the day, Summoning is still what they try to be and still one of the legends of underground metal. They not just a create music but an overall ensemble of emotions and atmosphere that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Despite many giants of the underground scene losing their ways in recent years Summoning hold to their roots with firm hands and deliver to their fans yet another solid (although not without some flaws) record. We just hope that we don't have to wait another 7 years for the next one.
Notable Tracks - As all Summoning albums are an overall experience its really hard to select notable songs. But here are some good ones - "Flammifer", "The White Tower", "Caradhras", " The Wandering Fire", " Earthshine" etc.
If you do get this album try to get the version with the bonus tracks as those two are really nice short songs reminiscent of early days of the band.
Overall Score -
8.5 out of 10.
If you want other reviews please do check out my blog of "Reviews & Stuff" and leave your comments -
An obvious difference that defines Summoning’s new album from the expansive, ultra-dynamic ‘Oath Bound’ is that whilst this is most certainly, and always will be the product of the same outfit, everything here is more streamlined. That is not necessarily a bad thing by any means.
Songs here are shorter in length, at around the 7 to 10 minute mark. This attention towards more immediacy in songs recalls a layout similar to ‘Stronghold’ and ‘Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame’, though retains the counterbalance of synthesisers and guitars as heard on ‘Dol Guldur’ and ‘Nightshade Forests’.
The epic scope of ‘Oath Bound’ prevails in the use of ideas, but ‘Old Mourning’s Dawn’ is more compact. It’s a sincere way for the duo to stay true to a set of principles that have always worked well for them, and an organic way of trying something different.
The use of multi-layered choral vocals make their way onto the title track, the closing epic ‘Earthshine’ and ‘Caradhras’, continuing a foray into more anthemic yet robust compositions, with the latter incorporating aesthetics familiar within Celtic music.
Tracks such as ‘Flammifier’ and ‘The Wandering Fire’ are absolute gems that act as a testament to Summoning’s ability to smoothly shift between exotic, neoclassical timbres within the epic narrative of black metal.
The neoclassical influence of Dead Can Dance, Arcana, and sister project Die Verbannten Kinder Evas is just as conspicuous as has always been. Streams of synthesised horns, harps and dulcimers retain a harmonious counterpoint with melodic guitar, driven by bombastic and martial percussion.
Any initial disappointment that would come on the back of their previous album would be inevitable, and subsequently ‘Old Mourning’s Dawn’ takes a matter of getting used to. What stands out on here at first sticks out like a sore thumb, but when given the chance to unfold itself, works brilliantly as a whole.
Summoning succeed on their latest full-length in the same manner as they have on most of their releases; they manage to express within their musical scope a romanticist and nostalgic ideal, one that emphasises the beauty of myth and lore, heroic and Apollonian.
Dark folk tales, black metal, high production, and a sensationally pervading atmosphere. Interested? If so, you will really enjoy this album. The intro itself is one of the most capturing around. You might even feel present at a The Lord of the Rings battle. For the select ear, this music is great for uplifting one's dark days. Not a single blast beat, so prepare yourself for some slower paced material.
There are two vocalists. "Silenius" has a more throat ripping black metal approach, while "Protector" seems to be holding back, focusing more on harmonizing. However, if you get lost in this CD, the two may become indistinguishable. Although their voices may sound rather dreary to some, the keyboards (a lot in which are horn synths) are predominant and their mellow melodies smooth things out. There will also be glorious choir segments placed sporadically.
Recorded with precision, the guitars sound mainly of a super static muffle. They may seem distant at times, but periodically they transform into a clear folk-like tone. The bass is even more distant yet occasionally drones loudly, almost acting as an additional synth. After a few listens, the bass becomes more apparent. Listening to these strings reminds me of taking that second beer and feeling a good buzz.
What dark folk tales? That's just what I think of when I hear this album. Did I miss the "Black Metal Feelings Protocol"? I don't think so, and that is why I feel it is okay to experience mystery and imagination while listening to Summoning. There are sound effects throughout the album supporting the programmed percussion, which reflects a tribal, march-like experience. The snare drum has been tweaked for what seems to be days, leading the music with an extremely captivating echo snap.
Assumedly, Summoning have altered many minor perceptible "flaws" such as structure, sound, and lyrics in pursuit of a specific genre, their own. After seven years, the sound these musicians aimed for has come clearly into focus. A craftily chosen track from this album would work great as a starter in a metal playlist. Old Mornings Dawn was an honest and starkly monumental effort!
Having been together for twenty years now, Protector and Silenius of legendary Austrian based band, Summoning, return in 2013 with, 'Old Mornings Dawn.' Over those years they've hardly been prolific though, its been six years since 'Oath Bound' came out, making this latest offering just their seventh album.
I've been listening to Summoning since the 'Stronghold' days (1999) and news of a new release from these two had always got me so charged up, even hearing about this album and viewing the trailer on youtube promised great things. However, after a few listens something became obvious to me -- Summoning hasn't matured or changed in any way whatsoever.
'Old Mornings Dawn' offers up just what you'd expect out of it; epic keyboard orchestrations, various samples, programmed drums, choral vocals, both Protector and Silenius' harsh screams and usually stern narrative spoken parts that sound like Saruman or Gandalf from Lord of the Rings movies. But there's a major problem.
Repetition seems to be this albums main formula, I guess that's always been typical of the band, but in the past the band managed to create some truly marvelous and majestic melodies that drew the listener into their fantasy world and kept them for a long time. On this album the melodies mostly seem dull and lifeless and really all I want to do is just leave their world. Also figure in the fact that the guitars are merely backing noise, buried by the percussion, synths and vocals, and nowhere within the album are their any riffs that stick out either. The album does have a slightly uplifting moment with the first few minutes of the song, 'Caradhras,' although once the intro passes its simply more of the same. The choral parts hardly seem interesting either, I mean, the first time I heard old songs like 'Land of the Dead' or 'Farewell' I was blown away. Even the main vocals seem to lack passion and considering the screams we've heard out of these guys in the past they just seem tired here.
Its all been done before though, and not just by Summoning, but several, several other bands have all made their best attempts to completely rip this band off and I must have just reached the point where I simply don't care about epic fantasy metal any longer, because this album offers mere glimpses of brilliance with the remaining pieces just being repetition and old worn out ideas. On the other hand, if Summoning is one of your true favs its entirely possible that this album will hit home for you, but for me its just a big mess of stuff I've heard before.
Considering the bands pace at releasing albums it would only seem likely that they'd spend another 5-6 years writing, and if they do I truly hope they consider the possibilities of experimenting and taking the Summoning sound to the next logical level, finally.
Originally wrote for, Lunar Hypnosis: http://lunarhypnosis.blogspot.com/
There's a sudden dawning realization that comes when you acknowledge to yourself that you've peaked- and as you struggle for some sort of last grasp at new vitality, sometimes you can completely descend into a downward spiral and lose sight of everything. If there's a strong foundation though, you can simply stand on that and continue to prosper. Though the gap between releases was long, and inspiration seemed to have been waning ever since their magnum opus dropped in 2001, Summoning, with just their second album in twelve years, have used their battle scars and long, treacherous experiences to fuel the youthful flames of yore, and as the old morning's dawn rises, Summoning have, at long last, returned home.
It seemed like with Oath Bound, Summoning pushed the nuances of the idiosyncratic sounds they had cultivated over a decade to their absolute limits. Regardless of that, one was still left feeling very unresolved with that album; it didn't feel like the right time to put things to rest, because in a way, they were lost. Although that was still a worthy album, it had a lot of qualities that raised doubt as to whether or not thye were really in tune with what thye wanted to write in the first place. Old Mornings Dawn dispels that notion with every echoed riff. Like every Summoning album, it can stand completely independent of their back catalogue, with its own little quirks and strengths while still being a sort of evolution upon said past sounds. With seven long years to rest and carefully bring to life the spirits of old, this album is the triumphant call of a warrior who has returned home; beaten and bruised, no doubt, but his words resound with a warm familiarity and the experience brought on by his battles and hardships. These are the melodies we've come to know and love from Summoning, and their presentation in this clearer, stronger light makes them a well-known fable told with new wisdom and experience.
It takes just one listen of the silky-smooth riffing on "Flammifer" or the vibrant violin opening into another fantastic riff on "Caradhras" to see the two main things that Summoning have tweaked following up Oath Bound. The production is much, much fuller and encompasses every aspect of the sound much better as opposed to favoring the guitars and kind of killing the other elements. Because of the lack of money these guys have to spend on aspects of being in a band such as touring and extensive promoting, they must have a much greater budget for albums than most, and it's great that they finally seem to be using this to their full advantage. This is one of the only albums where a really big-budget loudness-war sort of production is not only beneficial to the album, but almost seems like a necessity to encompass the full scope of the atmosphere that is presented. Secondly, they've made the wise decision to regress into the riffing styles more in line with albums like Stronghold and Let Mortal Heroes- though the guitarwork is still as smooth and textured as ever, there's slightly less melodic detail than there was on the preceding album and it favors the music much more greatly. Not only are individual guitar parts much more memorable and easier to be immersed in, but they mesh with the other aspects of the music much more harmoniously and it seems to have been re-understood by Protector and Silenius that the true beauty of their sound does not dwell within the actual melodies Summoning are writing. No, they've pretty much been doing a very similar thing for years on that front and anyone going into this expecting anything other than what Summoning have always been doing is not only going to be very sadly disappointed, but also horrendously misguided as to what they want and expect out of a Summoning album. The real beauty comes from the indescribable feelings that comes with the unique textures and aesthetics being intertwined, playing with each other and creating a soundscape between the layers that is multi-dimensional and gives you something new to come back to every single time.
I've been awkwardly trying to avoid the use of the word "riffs" in that last paragraph, and that's because it really doesn't seem like there are any to me. To call the guitarwork on this album predominantly influenced by metal riffs as we know and love them seems like an outright mistake to me. Although I know that Protector in particular listens to a lot of ambient/electronic music and that is a huge influence on Summoning, I couldn't tell you what specific subset of that genre is being drawn from here as I am mostly unfamiliar with that stuff, but it takes over the music and essentially prevents me from calling anything on this album a metal riff. They're melodic, ridiculously legato and reverbed guitar lines that end up just being another stream of ambiance contributing to the overall atmosphere. That seems to be the missing link that a lot of metalheads listening to Summoning don't seem to comprehend, whether they love or hate the album, but even having a remote understanding of where they draw from to attempt to create this sonic tribute to Tolkien makes the fact that they actually succeed at creating a sound that can demand all of your attention with its atmosphere in such a strange and specific blend of sounds makes it seem so much more genial.
This is one of the few albums which I almost guaranteed to myself going in that it would be a grower when I bought it; undoubtedly, this album will only resonate with you very strongly after you're already familiar with the melodies and textures (additionally, it helps if you've been in tune with what Summoning has been doing all along). It's really difficult to call one part of the music more noticeable over the other, because each of them contribute so evenly to the overall sound it's impossible to pick a standout. The drum programming is perhaps a little more nuanced and detailed than it has ever been, but that's just a natural byproduct of the band maturing. The entire thing is a standout. Of course there are some tracks that are my personal favorites; the aforementioned "Flammifer" as well as "Caradhras", "The White Tower" has some of the more metal-leaning Summoning moments as well as their strongest moments as far as the guitars go, and "Earthshine", while not being the best closer Summoning's ever done is still a weary, emotional ballad, and almost sounds like a goodbye from the band to the listeners; it is likely that after the release of this album, Summoning will once again disappear into the shadows, with nary a word to be heard from them for as long a time as the gap between Old Mornings Dawn and Oath Bound, perhaps even longer; this may not be their last album but it certainly shows tendencies of being so. This is an album for people who buy specifically what Summoning is selling; the outsiders looking in will continued to remain confused and disappointed while those of us who know the tune will sing the song of Summoning until the end of time. It is a harsh reality that they may leave us forever, but at the very least, I can be grateful and satisfied that they crafted a true swansong before the end.
The misty stars thy crown, the night thy dress,
most peerless magical thou dost possess
my heart and old days come to life again,
Old Mornings Dawn
It's been six years since we last heard from black metal's most beloved Tolkien nerds, Summoning. The Austrian duo made a name for themselves by abiding by a strict songwriting formula: seven to ten minute songs containing two or at most three melodic riffs; lush, orchestral synths; sprightly drum beats and lots of esoteric Lords of the Rings references. In the early days, this formula was quite effective. Albums like Stronghold and Dol Guldur are so damn catchy and atmospheric that you're willing to ignore the feeling that you should be in your parents' basement with five pimple-faced virgins tossing a twelve-sided die onto a homemade map of Middle Earth to see whose army conquers the shire. Yet, like most bands that repeat a formula ad infinitum, Summoning's sound has become increasingly stale. Albums like Let Mortals Sing Your Fame and Oathbound offered little new and failed to make an impact.
Summoning has just returned from a six year hiatus with Old Mornings Dawn; sometimes an extended break is exactly what is needed to refresh a band’s creativity. Unfortunately, Summoning’s sound is just as predictable as it was six years ago. If anything, the music has become even more formulaic. In the past, Summoning offered just enough variety in texture and layering to justify the long song lengths and repetitive structures. On Old Mornings Dawn the songs are fairly stagnant. As the songs move along, little new is added to the equation and when something new is added it’s usually a worthless addition of some dull chanting or a speech by some dude doing his best Gandalf impression.
The album does have its strong points. The sound quality has a bright, crystalline clarity, allowing all the orchestral textures to shine. The melodies are, for the most part, quite beautiful and at times there are some pretty cool counterpoints (i.e. the horns and clean guitar on the second passage of “Flammifer”). The drum programming has a very deep, organic sound that is excellently mixed, rolling back and forth from right to left. While the synths and percussion are quite engrossing, the same cannot be said for the guitars. Their sole purpose is to add a little meat to the sound, which technically they achieve, but if you’re hoping to hear some distinguished riffs you will be severely disappointed.
That brings us to the categorization of this record: this really isn't a black metal album, but rather a neoclassical synth album with extreme vocals. If that’s your thing, then there might be just enough depth to make Old Mornings Dawn worth your while. However, even fans of synth music will probably find the repetitive nature of this record to be tedious. For repetitive music to be effective it usually needs have a hypnotizing effect. The poppy, hyper-melodic nature of Summoning’s songwriting simply isn’t conducive to this level of repetition. If Summoning cuts the fat from their next record, it might actually be worthwhile, but for the time being, Summoning sounds like a band that is out of ideas.
Originally written for deafsparrow.com
Yep, it's been that long since we heard any of the incredible musical compositions of the mighty Summoning. It's really hard to believe Oath Bound was way back in 2006, but, alas, here I sit with the first strains of Old Mornings Dawn, the new offering by this Austrian outfit, swimming through my ears. To be honest, I wasn't the least bit concerned that Summoning wouldn't deliver another impeccable piece of musical artistry, and they didn't let me down. In fact, they surpassed and expectations I had.
From the early tones of “Evernight” I just knew I was in for a magical journey yet again, and the atmosphere that Summoning is so famous for is abundant and rich within. The combination of black metal and folkish, medieval majesty propels the album in every corner of its existence. There isn't a solitary moment of boredom or laboring anywhere to be found, and that in itself is a feat of total reverence these days.
What Summoning manages to produce here is what many modern bands simply cannot, and that is a visual landscape wholly and solely produced within the wondrous frame of musical inference. The overall feel of ancient battles through a bevy of forests and overcast skies is so easy to visualize here; galloping through brushes and battered and broken trees while the brilliant soundtrack rings in the ears is a wonderment that only Summoning and a sparse few other bands can accomplish. With the amazing keys providing some of the finest bombastic sounds to ever abandon the power metal camp fattening the bottom end, this record can actually bring a welling to the eyes and a lump to the throat. As I try vainly to smell the acrid air and bloody metal shields with the title track, I'm lifted so high I swear I can feel Valhalla's winds upon me. It's evident that this is no ordinary release I am allowing into my heart.
What has always enthralled me about Summoning is the innate ability to create the perfect mental pictures to accompany the music. While only opera, classical and metal music can really achieve this with absolutely credulity, it's especially affirming when a band takes a seven-year sabbatical and manages to come back stronger than when they went into hibernation. Each track exemplifies a new emotion, a deep and wordless knowledge that something far more beautiful and fulfilling lay in wait for us. The haunting echo of the vocal in “The White Tower” seems to be calling out from a distant past, traveling through the chasm of time and memory and infecting my senses with sheer perfection. There are just so many emotions running rampant through me as I take in this record, and I'm not exactly sure how to accurately describe them. This is, without question, one of the best albums of the year thus far.
The timelessness of the music from a band like Summoning manages to tap into recesses in the mind so deeply buried they rush forth like a dam newly burst and flooding the land. The mixture of old folk elements and blackened metal stands right on the anorexic cusp of that 'epic' tag we tend to overuse and spread out like Nebraska thunder to many an undeserving band. That said, Old Mornings Dawn can produce a sincerely magical piece like “Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves” and find the happy median between deliberate majesty and accidental genius; this track needs to be heard and enjoyed for the utter apex that it shoulders. Hell, the whole album needs to be heard, and I strongly suggest you put it atop your to-buy lists.
When all is said and done, Old Mornings Dawn provides an intelligent, epic story with which to reawaken the imaginative giants in all of us that might lie otherwise lulled and forgotten. This will be on many year-end lists as one of the best of the year and with very good reason. One does not simply walk away from this record...one lumbers away weary from battle and parched with a thirst unquenchable and crippling, and it's wonderful.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)
After the long stretch between this album and Oath Bound, any Summoning fan would expect to hear nothing less than epic music. And that is what they have provided. Some parts do take time to get used to after such expectation, but fortunately they grow on you (at least they did me).
The guitars sound similar to that of Oath Bound, blending into the keyboards to create a symphony that flows evenly. There are times where they keyboards drown the guitars, however, which can be distracting. The biggest surprise for me came from the drum sounds. Rather than being the resonant, pounding drums of previous releases, these seem comparatively danceable. The introduction to Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves, for instance, almost feels like it was written for Protector's Ice Ages project. That's not to say they don't have their epic moments, but they do make this album sound more upbeat.
Still, the dark atmosphere and resounding vocals that Summoning have made themselves known for are as strong here as any previous release. Female vocals and spoken word featured on some of the tracks add to the atmosphere, and the choirs make a prominent return, sounding better on this album than they ever did on the previous two releases. It's not hard to picture another world entirely while listening to this music, which is what this band is best at.
Fans of Summoning will likely be pleased by what the band has to offer, however it make take a few listens to wrap your head around it, mainly due to the drums and some of the keyboard effects, as mentioned before. Standout tracks for me were Old Mornings Dawn, Caradhras and Earthshine.
It’s quite the accomplishment in its own right to maintain a sort of ‘underground’ status in black metal while simultaneously keeping one’s music open and accessible to outsiders of the genre. While the usual suspects for ‘gateway’ black metal tend to bear the vitriol of many a black metal veteran, Summoning are one of those bands I could see someone not only getting into black metal with, but also maintaining a healthy love for their music as they became more accustomed to the more extreme end of things. Although I haven’t always been a fan of the bands largely synthesized sound, by the time “Old Mornings Dawn” came around, I had already begun to see why people were so excited for this long-anticipated album. It’s been seven years now since the release of the predecessor, “Oath Bound”, and though I have not been into the band for nearly as long as some of the fans who have waited this entire time for another slice of their unique atmosphere, I think fans and newcomers alike will find a great deal to like on “Old Mornings Dawn”. Summoning has changed very little in their music since the last time they released something, and while an innovation may have had the album stand out even more, it’s partially that sense of being true to form that makes their latest album work as well as it does.
Although there are arguably as many atmospheric black metal bands going as there are cheeseburgers sold in a day, Summoning have still always managed to stand out. Though they have some bands that have taken directly after them- Spain’s excellent Efflor comes to mind- there’s never been the sense in their music that they seek to make compromises or stray from the predestined path. Black metal it may be, but there’s no sense of aggression, or even malevolence to speak of in Summoning’s music. A half-experienced metal listener would be hard pressed to even call the band’s music ‘heavy’; Summoning are one of the few bands in metal I can think of that give keyboards a greater weight in their music than they do the guitars. The album’s overture “Evernight” expresses this focus on synthesizers from the beginning onward. Thoughtful layers of synthesized orchestration do well to build a sense of the epic within three minutes. The compositions that follow all rest within the 7-10 minute mark and tend to rely on hypnotic, soaring guitar passages, fused with the ever-present synthesized orchestra. Though the arrangement is often dense, the inviting tempo and strict focus on harmony makes sure that “Old Mornings Dawn” never feels overwhelming. Listening to it, there’s a feeling of flying over a windswept mountain range more than anything else.
Although the composition is meticulous and intelligently arranged, it’s surprising that Summoning are able to create such a convincing atmosphere, considering that there is such an emphasis on ‘fake’ instruments. Even the drums are conveyed through the use of a trademark drum machine. Although the longer tracks fuse this with the ‘human aspect’- being vocals and guitars- Summoning make no attempt to hide the artificiality of their sound. These programmed instruments don’t even necessarily sound up to date either, and it can be a little offsetting to hear it at first. There’s no doubt that’s it’s ultimately a testament to the quality of Summoning’s skill with composition that the album succeeds using a style of execution that’s often seen as hollow or kitschy. Although I have no doubt that it would have been more impressive to hear these compositions brought to life with a higher-budget and full cast of human musicians, the artifice of the sound gives it a sort of alien, monolithic atmosphere, distanced from mortals and the temporary. I know the programmed instruments are part of Summoning’s trademark, but I cannot help but feel these compositions would have ultimately benefitted from a more human touch.
The title track and the ‘violin’-lathered “Caradhras” are two of the best tracks the album has to offer. Although they and the rest of the songs stick to a given rhythmic pattern throughout, there’s a thoughtful attention to dynamic. The flow of the compositions never keeps things feeling bombastic for too long; for every epic, sword-in-hand passage, there’s a mellow counterpart waiting shortly thereafter. Individual tracks become journeys of their own, and there’s not a track here that disappoints or hurts the album. As a whole, however, “Old Mornings Dawn” feels as if it overdraws their ideas past the point where it would have been optimal. The tracks become somewhat distinct from one another after a few listens, but there’s the constant sense that Summoning are trying to find new ways of using a small handful of ideas. These ideas are indeed brilliant, but the album somehow ends up feeling longer than an hour normally would. Fans who have been waiting for something like “Old Mornings Dawn” for seven years will likely greet this length with open arms, but there’s certainly a sense of déjà-vu by the time the album has finally wrapped up.
“Old Mornings Dawn” may ultimately cross me as a bit of a mixed success, but there’s no doubt that its strengths overshadow the weaknesses. In whatever aspects of their sound they succeed with, Summoning are at the top of their game. The compositions and lush arrangements are some of the best I’ve heard within this style of black metal, and the atmosphere is such that it may topple kingdoms. When all is said and done though, I feel like Summoning have focused in on an otherwise narrow sense of style. They execute the style with excellence, but there is not the sense here that Summoning have upped, or even slightly expanded their game here. There is truth to the expression ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and Summoning have held true to that. “Old Mornings Dawn” is not without problems as an album, but the atmosphere is here in droves.
Summoning has, over the years, developed as a group. The musical dynamic evolved from the raw traditionalism of Lugburz to an epic experimentation with Dol Guldur. The album that was a true turning point was Stronghold, adding orchestration, and many other expansive aspects that truly matured their music. Their next turning point was Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame. Their style again aged and grew, and began to use the guitar not as a main instrument, but a part of the massive synthetic orchestra they had constructed. In my opinion, this is the best version of Summoning.
But of course, like in every band, change was inevitable. Hearing the preview that was released a while back, I could instantly immerse myself in the small clip, but at the same time had some doubts. There seemed to be an odd underlying effect on the album that separated it from Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, and my personal favorite at the time, Oath Bound. Instead of the regal, powerful horn filled melodies that were present in the two albums beforehand, Old Mornings Dawn seemed to have a different feel. A true sense of fantasy, which, although present on both forementioned albums, never really was a musical theme (aside from lyrically.)
However, despite my doubts, my love for Summoning's work took hold, and I quickly coughed up the money for the newest album. I waited for months, forcing myself to not give in the the numerous leaks that came around. The preorder came, and I instantly put it in my CD player. While the new qualities that I spoke of were heavily present, listening through the full album was incredible. The orchestration is top quality, the use of a male chorus was truly impressive, and of course, the writing was their best yet, following the ever growing writing prowess that Summoning possessed. The album's atmosphere is fantastic, and could quickly bring someone thoughts of Middle Earth. Definitely impressive.
On the surface alone, it seems that the quality of instrument samples and overall musicality have increased. The horns in the intro to the title track are top notch, and really ring out, a definite improvement on past albums. The writing has had some improvement too, utilizing every instrument. The drums are, as always, the perfect accompaniment to the writing of Protector and Silenius. The vocals are even of a higher caliber, although not by much. There seems to be a large amount of effort put into the album, which completely justifies the seven year gap.
Going deeper, the lyrics tie the powerful melodies and instrumentation. Poetic tools come into play in most of the songs. While it's plain to see that the musicality of Old Mornings Dawn is the omnipresent factor in the album's success, the vocal work is an impressive and necessary accompaniment. Where many have failed at the style, Summoning effortlessly continues to master writing and execution, creating vast soundscapes. Much like Oath Bound, the orchestration was greatly utilized, bringing a new sheen to the formidible sounds Protector and Silenius continue to create, and I don't normally care for samples in songs, but the samples used seemed to create a story. While simple, this added feature enhanced my listening experience greatly.
Some would be disappointed that the album moves away from the black metal style, but I welcome it. While Lugburz was a great album, it's plain to see that this is where the duo thrive musically. Of course, that's not to say that their style is no longer black metal by any regards, it just means that the band is maturing and experimenting, like any great group would, and I fully welcome the experimentation, as every album impresses me more and more.
What stuck out most to me was my enjoyment of the immersive fantasy aspect. The regality was still there, but was paired and fused with the new elements of writing. Not a campy, Tolkien wannabe's cheap musical ode, but a well thought out, almost flawlessly written series of opuses in a fantasy style. I believe that Old Mornings Dawn was an evolution. Not nearly as massive of a switch from Nightshade Forests and Stronghold to Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, but an evolution that is in steps. This is now easily my favorite album, and I look forward to Summoning's next masterpiece, and the next step in the evolution.
Summoning is a rather respected band in the underground black metal scene. Being previously unacquainted with the band's music I thought a listen to their new album 'Old Mornings Dawn' would give me an idea of their supposedly unique brand of epic/atmospheric black metal.
The album starts off with a three minute intro of spoken elfish accompanied by marching music and fanfares obviously programmed on a keyboard, upon which a seven minute interlude follows with even more bombastic medieval sounding keyboards and the rest of the album virtually continues in the same fashion. This is basically no more than 66 minutes of intros/interludes. Now don't get me wrong, I am the first to admit to having a weak spot for intros and interludes in metal music, but not an entire albums worth of it! Especially since not a single passage on 'Old Mornings Dawn' manages to invoke the feelings usually invoked by black metal.
The key to an atmospheric medieval sounding black metal intro/interlude lies in a downscaled effectiveness a la Winterfylleth, not in throwing in tubas, trombones, fanfares, church choirs, panpipes and whatnot into a cacophonous mix the Summoning way. The production lacks even traces of an organic sound and the guitars are most of the time so far down in the mix they are barely noticeable. Whenever they do pop up for a brief moment they sound as numb, plastic and inorganic as the rest of the album and I can't help but wonder if they're not programmed on keyboards to. The singer starts off fairly well in a traditional aggressive black metal manner but after a while it is almost as if he realizes he is kidding no one and turns as soft as the rest of the music.
The song structures resemble those of a video game rather than black metal and give me the feeling of walking around with Donkey Kong in the jungle rather than roaming the frostbitten Scandinavian woodlands. How this album qualifies as black metal when I hear more resemblance with my old Nintendo, or possibly Freedom Call, is beyond me. Let's just call it interlude metal instead. As for the epic part I guess those criteria are met by the Tolkien-lyrics, but Blind Guardian already covered that in better fashion.
In all fairness the title track do show some promising moments where Summoning actually comes close to hitting that right atmosphere. Sadly, most of these moments get ruined by ill-programmed tubas, feeble choirs and guitars and drumming on what appears to be cardboard boxes.
Upon its first spin I was actually prepared to give 'Old Mornings Dawn' 20% for its originality but the more I listen to this utter piece of [insert random word for litter here] the more unbearable it gets! Summoning has quite a bunch of followers out there so apparently they must do something right but I simply can't, for the love of Beelzebub, figure out what.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com