Old Morning's Dawn

After a 7 year wait, a considerable amount of hype and build up, something strange happened to Summoning‘s eagerly awaited 7th album. After the teaser trailers, after the first song was revealed, the metal world was brimming with anticipation and then the album came out a couple of weeks ago……..and there were *crickets*. Now I don’t know if Caladan Brood, who released a new Summoning album before Summoning did, stole some of the Old Morning’s Dawn‘s thunder, or if the album underwhelmed the fans or if it simply has not found its way into folks’ listening rotation. Regardless, a mere 4 reviews over at metal archives and a lack of reviews at all of my usual metal haunts is concerning, and now that I have had some time with Old Morning’s Dawn, I have to painfully admit its a mix of Caladan Brood‘s excellent release and the underwhelming part.

Maybe it was due to the Peter Jackson trilogy coming out at the time, or it was my first introduction to the band’s then unique style, I personally hold 2001’s Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame in highest regard when it comes to Summoning‘s Tolkien based epic black metal (I think we are beyond trying to actually describe Summoning‘s sound if you are reading this review, don’t you?), but there came a point on 2006’s Oath Bound where nothing new or exciting was happening, and that carries over to Old Morning’s Dawn. The duo seems to have scaled back on the production and atmosphere, and not even hide the fact that everything is programmed. I think I could have come up with more epic sounding synths on my iPad. Admittedly though, you know what you are getting with Summoning, even after a 7 year wait, but listening to Old Morning’s Dawn is akin to watching a Ray Harryhausen monster feature compared to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which actually looks dated 10 years later) or going back and playing the Turok video games on N64 – it sure is nostalgic and enjoyable to an extent, but beneath the warm glow of nostalgia, your eyes are screaming “man, this looks dated“. Old Morning’s Dawn – for all its Middle Earth-y charm, midi programming and regal, (if hollow) synths sounds……dated.

Would it have hurt for the duo of Protector and Silenius to essentially make the sonic equivalent of the jump from stop motion to CGI? I’m all for practical effects, but sometimes it looks like ass, and if I’m being brutally honest, Old Morning’s Dawn, often sounds like ass. The tinny, programmed drums sound absolutely awful, the fuzzy guitars have no presence and the synths seem less majestic than ever. Case and point, “Caradhras” with a horn and brass laden start should have been a rousing regal start to the song, but it sounds awfully “Casio-y” rather than pompous and grandiose. Of course, that lo-fi sound has been Summoning‘s M.O for their entire career, so die hards will baulk at the prospect of change, and for those folks, this album will satiate their need for that brittle, tinny sound – me? I would have preferred Summoning enter a new age.

That all being said, there are some moments on the album where it somehow comes together and forms something alluring and appropriate for the fantastical subject matter. The title track with its stirring chorus works well, even if those brass and horn sections are still less than convincing. Oh, and despite any issues, eagle cries make any song better (“Flammifer”). But could you imagine if Summoning pulled off a Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir and worked with an actual orchestra? Or imagine the opening of “Of Pale White Morn and Darkened Eves” with actual, real war drums instead of the flat taps that we get? It could have resulted in arguably the most majestic, rousing song the band has penned since “South Away” or “Farewell”. “Earthshine” closes the album out on a positive note, mainly due to those choirs arising again, but how can those sound so full and regal, but everything else be so awfully synthetic sounding?

In the end Old Morning’s Dawn is a Summoning album, for all its good and bad. And like The Hobbit’s celluloid franchise return with a divisive bang, so has Summoning with an album that might divide fans of the band. Not that it was a competition, but I’m pretty confident in declaring Caladan Brood the clear winner as the upstart has surpassed the veteran. Let’s hope Summoning can return with a bigger sound and finally evolve their production values to match the majesty of their subject matter.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
June 24th, 2013


  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    Gave this a few listens over the weekend and I agree… the Caladan Brood album smokes this.

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    much as I enjoy the Caladan Brood as well, this still sounds like Summoning to me, and I like it. for me their appeal is less about the palette or the impact and more about the melodies and atmosphere, and this has it in spades.

    That said I agree with Erik and wonder what a Summoning album would sound like with an orchestra and modern production. Their sound cries out for that kind of bombast.

  3. Commented by: jacobi

    I agree that Oath Bound was an uninspired and frankly quite boring album, but I think this is a complete return to form. The programmed drums have never sounded better, the synths sound majestic and the guitars are perfect. On songs like the title track and Caradhras, the guitar creates an almost groovy layer to the music that I haven’t heard from these guys before.
    Of course it’s all a matter of personal taste, but I love the sound of epic melodies played on synths and I think it would completely ruin the music if they were replaced with an actual orchestra.
    Caladan Brood was a nice stopgap, but this is the real deal. Album of the year contender for me.
    Anyway thanks for the review; it’s nice to get some new opinions on the album even when I don’t agree :-)

  4. Commented by: thisblacksession

    I guess there will never be another Dol Guldur, huh? Oh well, I’ll still pick this up – I think I’m a lifer with this band.

  5. Commented by: Storm King

    While I like this more than most here seem to-the Caladan Brood album does totally smoke this. Though I would like to see either of those bands working with better production and a full band, their music just screams for a more bombastic, symphonic sound.

    I do also suspect that I’d be a bit more enthusiastic about this album if Caladan Brood hadn’t one upped them-that’s my album of the year at the moment.

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