Review Summary: In the dead marshes of modern metal Summoning is the last shining jewel.
Like a balrog of morgoth Summoning have lain dormant for years since their last masterwork Oath Bound
. The lull in activity has been seen before in the time between Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame
(2001) and the aforementioned album (2006). Protector and Silenius need time to not only write these layered symphonies, but more importantly gain inspiration. The band has already released multiple magnum opuses, and the 'Tolkien well' from which they derive their inspiration from is starting to run dry. Still, fans are abnormally patient and understanding when it comes to Summoning which is a testament to their high level of quality. Now once again in 2013 we are treated to their latest effort entitled Old Mornings Dawn
The first thing to be said is that it is still the trademark Summoning sound, closest in style to Oath Bound
in that it has the synths in the forefront with distant guitars gracing the background. The pounding drum beats from the deep are a welcome return as always. The samples and melodies utilized truly make you feel like you are in Middle Earth. Choirs sound like a band of Dwarves, and synths like trumpets ringing within Minas Tirith.
Ultimately where this album differs the greatest from past releases is the mood. This is the first Summoning release where I can definitely say that the mood of the album is triumphant and even joyous based off its sound, imagery, and lyrical subject matter. One can see this as soon as an elven maiden speaks her tongue on the intro track and continuing throughout most of the songs on the album. While prior albums dealt with the ‘evil’ side of Tolkien’s world and reveled in that sound, or a more depressive sound as seen on that of Stronghold
, Old Mornings Dawn
deals with the good. It deals with the nostalgia of the composers to return back to their life’s work, and the nostalgia of diving back into Tolkien’s world.
"Old days come to life again, Old Mornings Dawn."
And this is where it may alienate some listeners of black metal. Many enjoy Summoning and other bm bands exactly for the utterly evil, bleak and melancholic soundscapes. “What the hell is this making me tap my foot and want to ***ing dance even? This isn’t black metal” They might say. Whatever you want to call it, it is undeniably great. Yet despite the fact Summoning have succeeded in molding their talents towards this style I will concede that the sound they innovated does lend itself best to a darker mood. Though, one must not forget that part of nostalgia contains a fair bit of sadness. Old Mornings Dawn still has a track or two that will make you feel like frodo and company are leaving forever for the grey havens.
Like the vast majority of Summoning songs each track is strong in their own right. They typically contain intricacies that if not immediately apparent reveal themselves after repeated listens. It is partly why the album only gets better with time and also manages to hold its appeal. Some highlights for me were "Flammifer", "Caradhras", "the Wandering Fire" and the closer "Earthshine." In 1999 on their 4th release the duo discovered that they could compose their version of ‘singles’. That is, songs that transcend the normal amounts of epicness found on each song and manage to blow your mind or send chills down your spine. On Stronghold
it was "Distant Flame Before the Sun", on Mortal Heroes
it was "Farewell", on Oath Bound
it was "Land of the Dead", and the trend is continued here with the self-titled song "Old Mornings Dawn."
On a final note, in placing this in Summoning’s discography, it is just not quite as memorable as the best of their best. While the change in mood was interesting and refreshing, the meat of the album is still a path they have trodden down before. When one looks back in the annals of Summoning’s history they will pick Minas Morgul
, Dol Goldur
, and Oathbound
with this fighting for 4th place. Though they have influenced hordes of bands when it comes to this type of music, Summoning has no equal. In the dead marshes of modern metal Summoning is the last shining jewel.