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Conceptually inovative post-BM - 100%

Fungicide, November 13th, 2003

Black metal can be said to be a contingently anti-social rejection of the modern Judaeo-Christian world order. Summoning accepts the validity of black metal's conceptual mission. However, Summoning are not a Black metal band, and Black metal's critical outlook is not something they expound. Summoning, in terms of both their music (structurally and aesthetically) and their lyrical concepts have moved beyond that which is and embrace fully the longing for a different time and place that in good black metal is always implied buts rarely takes centre stage.

Summoning’s image of a different world is portrayed through the use, lyrically, of Tolkien's Middle Earth. We can see the choice of Tolkien as an endorsement both of the ancient myths and ideals that Tolkien bases his narratives on, and of their modern application which does not exclude their metamorphosis in order to suit the peculiar needs of the age (For example we see a fascination with and sympathy for 'the dark' that only makes sense in an age when 'the light' as a symbol has become associated with a corrupt and inhuman ideology). Unlike much black metal, Summoning's lyrics do not use metaphysical or supernatural entities as agents that decry their own non-existence. Summoning accepts that part of the human spirit that sees beyond our mundane material existence, and unlike many metal bands, Summoning has successfully reclaimed the metaphysical world from its Judaeo-Christian captors. Consequently the lyrics on 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame' deal with mysticism, supernatural power and the inherently non-physical entity of Tolkien's Sauron.

If Summoning's lyrical approach to the projection of a renovated ideology for the modern world is predicated on the works of Tolkien, then their musical approach has a similar relationship with the Romantic composers and in particular, as we might expect, with Wagner who himself recalled and reworked the myths and ideals of a former age in his great work Das Rhine gold. Summoning sounds like mighty deeds and tender words, like war without fear, like glorious victory and noble defeat. Summoning sounds like the things that make life more than the unpredictable interaction of tiny specs of matter and mathematically extant forces.

Keyboards take precedence on 'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame' both in terms of the mix and in terms of structural function. Put simply, when you hum along to a Summoning song, it will be the keyboard lines you are humming. Guitars are used, but not in the usual heavy metal way. They are low down in the mix and usually serve as a harmonic balance or counterpoint for the Keyboards. That is not to say that the guitars are not interesting in their own right -they are- but they are used in a disciplined manner that excludes virtuosity. The drums (or drum machine) are stark but not monotonous. They drive the songs forward rhythmically and like the guitars operate within the context of the song, and do not go in for virtuosity (one of the strengths of a drum machine; there is no drummer desperate to satisfy his ego by whacking in impressive but ultimately inappropriate fills and blasts). Vocals are used sparingly. They are harsh, but varied in timbre, there are after all two vocalists. They often develop into chanted mantras.

The album is repetitive at a basic level. Closer examination will reveal 'repetitions' do not merely reiterate musical themes but develop and recontextualise them in order to explore the possibilities inherent in the song. Consequently the songs tend to be long and thorough.

'Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame', an album whose very title suggest the immortal and the rekindling of the smouldering spirit that, although it is so often temporally associated with times of yore, is innate in us, takes heavy metal forward conceptually, musically and ideologically. This album defies the cynic who can see only gimmick and vainglorious ideologues pedalling outdated sermons for another time. Summoning have created a master piece of foresight and hindsight, a master piece not of what we are but what we could be, a master piece that fully understands the nature of the artistic ideal and its relationship to our blighted earth.