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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.