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Over the land there lies a long shadow - 75%

Felix 1666, January 30th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Napalm Records

Austria is a lovely country. It calls itself "Land der Berge" ("land of the mountains") and it comes therefore as no surprise that the artwork of Summoning's "Minas Morgul" shows an isolated colony in the mountains. (Forgive me for ignoring their Tolkien influence, because I have never read his books. Sorry, but I am interested in history, not in fantasy.) The inaccessibility of this settlement creates a mysterious aura that matches the atmosphere of the music more or less perfectly. Indeed, "Minas Morgul" is ornamented with one of the best artworks of my collection and I am ashamed that I only possess the small CD edition. I must look out for the vinyl. Irrespective of this omission, I am generally no great fan of atmospheric black metal. But in the case of "Minas Morgul", I admit that I also appreciate the music of the album very much and I recommend it for those of you who want to escape into another world from time to time.

Endless keyboard lines take the listener on a surreal journey. The melodic approach generates pompous soundscapes. Undeniably, the band has a certain penchant for repetitions. The wide-screen format of the songs has both advantages and drawbacks. It underlines the monumental aura of the tracks, but it makes it slightly difficult to listen to the entire album without interruption. I confess that I mostly do not have the patience to listen to the complete full-length. This is not only a question of the album's playtime of more than an hour. It also indicates a small lack of spellbinding sequences. But there exists also a great number of fantastic compositions that shine in full glory. The sprawling "The Passing of the Grey Company" marks the prime example in this context.

Some might say that the general configuration of this piece, calm beginning and steadily growing intensity, is not highly original. However, it works outstandingly. No doubt, the mesmerizing main melody is created by experienced musicians who are able to assess the effect of their creation in advance. The strongly distorted lead vocals commute between desperation and conjuration while adding the necessary black metal touch. In addition, the guitars contribute harsh elements as well, but they only have a supportive function. Finally, a timpani leaves its mark at the end of the song and increases the majestic ambience. This wonderful masterpiece is surrounded by pieces which basically have a similar structure. Consequently, "Minas Morgul" does not suffer from heterogeneity. Just like the Alps or the mountains on the cover, the music can be described as monolithic and impressive at the same time. Yet there is also a significant difference between the Austrian mountains and Summoning's music. The latter is easily accessible and the listener is not at risk to crash.

Despite the dominance of the rather unpopular keyboards, the sound does not lack of density and robustness. Of course, the mix is not as hostile as that of a genuine black metal album. But it fulfils its purpose in a convincing manner while being aligned with the fundamental approach of the duo. And we may not forget that the album was released in 1995. More than 20 years ago, Summoning's way of proceeding was more or less innovative and experimental. Taking this fact into consideration, "Minas Morgul" is the name of a very interesting effort, created by two courageous musicians.