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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