Summoning

Picture of Summoning

Lugburz

Summoning - Lugburz ©1995 Napalm Records
1. Grey Heavens
2. Beyond Bloodred Horizons
3. Flight Of The Nazgul
4. Where Winters Forever Cry
5. Through The Valley Of The Frozen Kingdom
6. Raising With The Battle-Orcs
7. Master Of The Old Lure
8. Between Light And Darkness
9. The Eternal Lands Of Fire
10. Dragons Of Time
11. Moondance

A mistake some might make with Summoning is to hear any of their more recent output, which is phenomenal in a very epic, somber and subtle sort of way. However, their debut record Lugburz is a more traditional black metal that upon first listen is badly produced and not even remotely interesting. But that is not the case and why they invented second and third listens. Deeper investigation will prove that yes, this album definitely has some production problems. The guitars are very thin and reedy while the vocals have a startling ample supply of echo and reverb. Levels on the various instruments seem to lack consistency. That may cause a lot of listeners to simply take the disc and crush it beneath a pair of leather boots. However, they're missing out. Regardless of the problems this album has sonically, the music is still quite good. Not great or earthshaking, but good. A lot of effort is apparent with the songwriting, especially in the guitar lines. Hints at the band's future appear here and there, such as the piano overlay in "Flight of Nazgul". The end result is a reasonably good album that offers quite a bit to the fan of black metal and even more promise to those who enjoy the atmospheric angle.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/1999

Back to top 

Minas Morgul

Summoning - Minas Morgul ©1995 Napalm Records
1. Soul Wandering
2. Lugburz
3. The Passing Of The Grey Company
4. Morthond
5. Marching Homewards
6. Orthanc
7. Ungolianth
8. Dagor Bragollach
9. Through The Forest Of Dol Guldur
10. The Legend Of The Master-ring
11. Dor Daedeloth

Moving away from their more standard black metal ranting on Lugburz, Summoning began to define and refine their signature sound with Minas Morgul. But for the most part the album is not the type of listening experience that would be found in later albums from this band. Though the album grows on you over the course of the disc, the first half is tedious at best to sit through. Musically the band's sound is moderately fleshed out: high end, trebly guitar lines, thundering, echoing drums, vocals flushed out with a ton of reverb and, yes, more echo, and folky keyboards. There is still a touch of the old black metal style within the music, as the speedier section of "Marching Homewards" demonstrates. But some of the music comes off as amateurish, haunted house music or repetitive new age music being influenced by little trolls who like to scare young girls. However, as stated before, Minas Morgul does pick up and eventually becomes a lot more interesting towards the latter half of the disc. "Dagor Bragollach" is the first track to really stir up any active attention from the listener. The song couples militaristic snare (not too dissimilar to In the Nursery), dramatic warlike keyboards, and very distorted hissed vocals.

Overall, Minas Morgul represents a band who has the ideas but not quite the execution to pull off the sound they are striving for. Compared to their own catelogue of releases, this particular record pales somewhat. For curious fans, I would definitely direct them towards Stronghold or later releases to capture the band in a more profound and realized state.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2000

Back to top 

Dol Guldur

Summoning - Dol Guldur ©1996 Napalm Records
1. Angbands Schmieden
2. Nightshade Forests
3. Elfstone
4. Khazad Dm
5. Kr
6. Wyrmvater Glaurung
7. Unto A Long Glory..
8. Over Old Hills

Dol Guldur is a refinement of the sound first developed on Minas Morgul and an excellent album in its ownright. It is less metallic and a great deal more ambient than its predecessors, at once bombastic and atmospheric. The album effectively invokes Tolkien's Middle Earth, with an approach so primitive and haunting that the listener is instantly transported far away into pastoral valleys, primordial ravines, and dark secretive forests. The music seems somehow ancient, invoking long buried memories and a genuine feeling of nostalgia and mystery. Dol Guldur is less about music in and of itself, and more about an experience, about a place in the darker recesses of the mind - obscured by the mundane everyday existence.

The music is not metal so much as ambient trance music with metal elements. The guitar lines are simple tremolo chords sustained and distorted to the point of transcending metal and becoming ambient noise. Amidst this noisy ambience are melody lines provided by keyboard; the keys are primarily used to imitate classical/medieval instruments and sail in layers upon layers of quasi-medieval polyphony over the haze of white noise. All of this is tethered to heavy beats provided by a drum machine, programmed to sound like hand drums, tympani percussion and blocks; these beats are often syncopated and layered in complex poly-rhythms. Vocals are shrieked and rasped, soaring over the music in long, sustained breaths. The music is repetitious, with songs over ten minutes comprised of little more than a single riff or melody line.

All of the lyrics present on Dol Guldur are based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien with many lines and verses taken directly from the poetry and songs of Middle Earth. Unlike bands like Blind Guardian (who also base their lyrics off of Tolkien's writings), Summoning invokes something deeper and more enduring in Tolkien's work, the darkness and mystery at the heart of The Lord of the Rings. Summoning's music wraps the listener in its haunting majesty, lulling the listener into its web-like trance with epic song structures and spidery melodies. Rather than clobber the listener over the head with tales of chivalry and heroism, Summoning creates an ethereal atmosphere and draws the listener into a world both familiar and alien through deep, hypnotic textures.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2000

Back to top 

Nightshade Forest EP

Summoning - Nightshade Forest EP ©1997 Napalm Records
1. Mirkwood
2. Kortirion Among The Trees
3. Flesh And Blood
4. Habbanan Beneath The Stars

Arguably the best material ever released by trance metal gurus Summoning, the thirty-four minute Nightshade Forests EP stands as their least metallic and most ambient work yet. Comprised of four epic songs, the music forgoes the heavy rhythm guitar and hectic compositions of black metal and is dependant instead on drum loops, programmed polyphony, very repetitious song structures and hazy ambience. The guitar lines have been reduced (by their production and execution) to wispy sheets of white noise floating between the keyboard melodies and heavy, often syncopated beats. The melody lines are twisting, hypnotic affairs, almost instantly triggering associations in my mind with Celtic New Agers Ceredwen. The melodies, infectious and repeated for minutes on end, have a way of seeping into one's mind and resurfacing in memory at unexpected moments weeks later.

Music like this will simply be unacceptable to the die hard "true metal" fanatic (you know, the guy who lives for Manowar concerts, collects seven inches of bands called Goatfuck, and thinks Dark Tranquillity are sellouts etc.), but for anyone moderately interested in ambient trance music with a dark fantasy theme, Nightshade Forests is a solid release. "Kortirion among the trees" might very well be the best song Summoning has ever produced, with its thick ambient wash, dub-like breaks and serpentine melody-lines. Anytime I play this album, no matter what I'm doing at the time, I find myself totally immersed in the experience. I had to turn the album off half way through writing this review, as I found myself ensnared in its tapestry of sound and unable to concentrate on the writing process. It's just one of those albums.

Review by James Slone

Review date: 04/2000

Back to top 

Stronghold

Summoning - Stronghold ©1999 Napalm Records
1. Rhun
2. Long Lost To Where No Pathway Goes
3. The Glory Disappears
4. Like Some Snow-white Marble Eyes
5. Where Hope Und Daylight Die
6. The Rotting Horse On The Deadly Ground
7. The Shadow Lies Frozen On The Hills
8. The Loud Music Of The Sky
9. A Distant Flame Before The Sun

I'm kicking myself over this one. A ton of people have attempted telling me how great this Summoning project is and did I listen to them? No...I had to put off getting any of their albums for a long time and now I feel foolish. Stronghold is simply a magnificent, epic and wonderful release that is captivating and moving. Not bad for a so-called black metal side project. Summoning relies on carefully measured rhythms, keyboard and synth bases and to the point guitar lines to create this vast, immense sounding world of music. The only real tie-in to black metal is the lacerated vocals that actually fit the music perfectly. The songs themselves move ever so smoothly forward and use excellent climax techniques. It is quite easy to find yourself completely entranced within this album while you're listening to it. There is no filler material or moments where you might lose attention. I'm not inclined to say this often, but this is one release that I think everyone into dark, gothic, black or extreme metal should own. Stronghold is a brilliant and damn near perfect release.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1999

Back to top 

Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame

Summoning - Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame ©2001 Napalm Records
1. A New Power Is Rising
2. South Away
3. In Hollow Halls Beneath the Fells
4. Our Foes Shall Fall
5. The Mountain King's Return
6. Runes of Power
7. Ashen Cold
8. Farewell

It's only fitting that a band that bases their music on J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth might ultimately end up sounding a bit dated. Although I've always had a soft spot for Summoning and their obsession with castles, big ol' mountain valleys surrounded by rock cliffs and presumably gnomes of some sort, I must admit my interest in them waned after 1999's Stronghold. That album to me encapsulated their sound rather well and in impressive form. Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame sticks to that established sound, but fails to really contribute anything new, aside from eight more songs with the same formula. This is not to say it's a bad album, but it doesn't quite get me all stirred up and ready to hoist swords the way previous releases did.

The part of the album that stands out now is just the simple advancements keyboards and technological contributions over the past decade. Some of the synthesizers just sound a little on the outdated and "budget oriented" side of things. And granted, that is merely just a reality of where electronic instruments were just a few short years ago. On the flipside of that equation, Summoning uses programmed drums but they manage to get a good sound with them as well as a solid, neo-tribal approach much of the time. This is one aspect of Summoning's sound I still appreciate.

Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame is certainly not a bad album, but it definitely has a tendency to sound as though the band was stuck on the musical ideas of Stronghold. What this album lacks is any particular track that truly stands out as ridiculously epic. Instead, the album tends to just present itself as "Hi, we're Summoning, and we tinker around with songs like this". Perhaps it just lags a bit considering how impressive some of their 90s output was (at least at the time).

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2012

Back to top