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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)