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The mountain throne once more is freed. - 85%

Diamhea, April 8th, 2008

Summoning occupies a very unique niche in the field of epic metal. Their music requires that the listener be in a very specific mood, and if these factors successfully align, they can deliver a very rewarding listening experience. The band's earlier material like Minas Morgul began incorporating the now-infamous tenacious, driving keyboard textures alongside the programmed war-like drums. However, it wasn't until Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, six years later, that the formula finally achieved its potential. In light of the recent surge of Tolkien worship bands and general over saturation of Middle Earth subject matter as a quick, effortless way to add fantasy lyrical themes, it becomes difficult to imagine a time when a band utilizing this concept didn't come off as trite or played-out.

The atmosphere summoned is definitely potent, although the only thing particularly "Tolkien" about this is the lyrical themes and voice-overs present in many of the songs. The tracks are protracted as a whole, confiding in repetition and a very gradual build up and eventual release of tension to earn their appeal. One of the major problems on Summoning's weaker albums is that many of these songs simply don't go anywhere, spending an inordinate amount of time coasting along at a mid-paced rapidity, initially drawing a decent amount of interest but eventually decaying as the luster of the melodies begin to dull. While the same can be said regarding "South Away" and to a lesser extent "Ashen Cold", the band avoids the pitfalls for the most part here. The one song that stands out significantly is the closer, "Farewell", which revels in its triumphant second half, featuring some very potent clean vocals alongside an entrancing melodic keyboard line. Of the remaining songs, "In Hollow Halls Beneath the Fells" remains the most potent, featuring the most effective drum patterns and great atmospherics. "Runes of Power" is also worth mentioning, as these three tracks are among the best the band has ever written.

The production is difficult to dissect in light of Summoning's unique approach. It is hard for me to say that it doesn't accomplish what it sets out to do. The vocals are drenched in reverb, masking what is most likely a fairly pedestrian black metal rasp. Some of the vocal patterns are enterprising, and the aforementioned clean, choir-esque vocals near the end of the album are definitely an avenue worth exploring further. The voice-overs can add or detract a great amount of appeal depending on the song. The guitars are extremely minimalist, consisting of staccato, arpeggio patterns which are obviously an afterthought once the keyboards are taken into account. The keyboards don't sound overtly cheap like on the group's earlier material, and are almost universally at the forefront of the music. The drums are also reverb-heavy, but follow a bevy of repetitive patterns and fills, ultimately ending up as just a space-filler in light of the lack of a real drummer. However, like Limbonic Art, part of Summoning's appeal is the artificial nature of the music, enhanced by the programmed drumming. It becomes a style in and of itself, almost like this is music beyond corporeal capabilities.

What makes Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame Summoning's best album is that the standard of quality remains quite high whilst considering the remaining tracks. Some of them pass by with such obvious epic glamors that they begin to blur together. Regardless, even the most plodding and middling of these tracks, such as "South Away", still make a strong case for the band's continued existence. Those interested in the aural journey Summoning's music can offer should start here.

(Revised/Updated 1/19/14)