Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame

You know what my favorite instrument is? The war drum. I love it and have wanted a band to utilize it more since I heard it on Abigor‘s Verwüstung/Invoke the Dark Age album and varying Bal-Sagoth songs. Enter Austria’s Summoning – a war drum lovers dream come true. For those that don’t know, Summoning has carved out several albums in a very small niche within the metal genre. While early on they were considered black metal, they have evolved more beyond that classification and share more common traits with early Mortiis than any guitar-driven noise.

With concepts deeply rooted in Lord of the Rings lore, Summoning has essentially created a musical interpretation of Tolkien’s vast world. I don’t mean they mention Gandalf here and there, they are really deeply into Middle-Earth, and it would take someone of equal Middle-Earth knowledge to recognize the myriad of references and quotes contained within the lyrics. Musically, the only thing keeping this album barely within the black metal genre (beyond members Silenius and Protector’s involvement in various other black metal projects) is the use of fairly un-adventurous fuzzy guitars and the orc-ish vocals. The main element of the music is drums, drums and more drums. And, man, are they rousing. Overlayed with copious horns, strings and brass synths, it creates a very “soundtrack’ sounding atmosphere that suits the lyrical content perfectly and truly creates a stunning aura of fantasy. The horn-heavy synths are somber, haunting and at the same time gloriously epic; the addition of guitars simply gives the whole ambience a vaguely metal vibe and are included to lure fans of corpsepaint into their realm. To me it sounds like what Mortiis should have progressed into. Almost every song begins with a few bars of moody synth. Then in come the crashing drums and underwhelming guitar, all at a steady, rhythmic pace that’s more militaristic march music than black metal. They pound mercilessly, ominously and powerfully, almost never reverting from the simple two beat structure. The songs are almost one long drum fill that form the backbone of Summoning‘s majestic sound.

The ambience created throughout the album is one that could fall into any imagery pertained to a fantasy world – not the pomp and cheesy-happy world of Bal-Sagoth, but a darker grimmer world of lost hope, rising glory and eternal war. Moreover, those emotions are conveyed in the stirring music. “South Away” conjures a vast marching army leaving glittering spired towers to meet the enemy on a barren field. All the songs imbue some kind of emotional relationship with a feeling of a specific picture. Much like a movie soundtrack, the mood of the music fits the moment of the song perfectly. Aptly titled closer “Farewell” might be Summoning‘s most magnificent song ever, including a full choir that resonates at old friends departing. It really brings to mind those post-battle, eyes-to-the-sky feelings of somber victory. Summoning really has a knack of making the music suit the mood. Include spoken word samples from various characters from the books, and it all adds up to create a complete universe set within music, and thankfully it’s not just an album about wizards and warriors. One possible drawback though might be this album isn’t that much different from 1999’s Stronghold.

It seems Summoning have found a formula and are content to ride it, without much new creative spark to take the music to the next level. But if you’re like me and you enjoy something so endearingly well done the fact that there isn’t much musical growth is just as fulfilling as hearing something fresh. This is a brilliant album that could appeal to fans at all levels, but should be especially satisfying to fans of J.R.R Tolkien and his imaginary world, as Summoning have not just created a metal album, but a soundtrack for Middle-Earth.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
June 18th, 2001


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