Summoning // Old Mornings Dawn
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — As triumphant as a return can be.
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: summoning.info  |  myspace.com/upthehammers
Release Dates: EU: 2013.06.05  |  06.07.2013

It was seven years ago that I purchased my very first CD as a teenager who knew nothing about music other than the fact I absolutely loved it and wanted to find something completely different and obscure. I opened up a metal magazine and was instantly pulled in by the mysterious description and album cover to Summoning‘s Oath Bound. The nature-influenced album cover, the Austrian black metal description, all of it seemed incredibly alluring so I bought it blindly — my first ever musical purchase. Needless to say, Oath Bound arrived and floored me. I couldn’t get over how different it was from what I was expecting, or how deeply it resonated with me in profound ways I’d never experienced before. From that point onwards I dedicated myself to music completely, and it’s almost impossible to describe how indebted I am to the two geniuses that conjure Summoning‘s sound and atmosphere. For years I expanded my musical taste, hundreds of bands in my library became thousands and it’s all because of this band, and as I evolved, I slowly lost hope that a follow-up would ever be made.

The emotional response I had when Old Mornings Dawn was revealed was incredible — as if every manner of my musical growth was about to be challenged, that I was about to rediscover what made me fall in love with music in the first place. As predicted, this album has floored me too, but in ways I didn’t expect. Old Mornings Dawn is neither a departure nor a continuation of the sound of Oath Bound — the slate was wiped clean between records; different MIDI sounds, different guitar tone, different atmosphere. But what remains true is every single strength in the Summoning arsenal is used to create some of the most resonant, atmospheric and quite frankly brilliant music you’ll ever hear. The MIDI arrangements using much brighter, far more nostalgic MIDI voices than Oath Bound create something entirely different. Where Oath Bound was massive and cold, this album is warm and bright in a way Summoning have never done before. It’s different in almost every way, but brilliant all the same.

Summoning interweave infectious, emotionally powerful melodies on top of each other with synths that never sound contrived. They createSummoning1 such an infectious and dense wall of sound with the huge, almost tribal-sounding drums and brilliant Tolkien-themed lyrics and vocals; so far from conventional black metal that I encourage you to go in with no associations to that genre at all. Every track masterfully crafts a unique shade of bright, earthy atmosphere while never losing the mysterious nature of their music.

The interplay between Silenius and Protector adds such a great dynamic to the music, as both are brilliant vocalists. The drums and MIDI arrangements are absolutely stellar — far less cold and sparse than on the last effort but just as alluring and enigmatic. But what may surprise you is just how dense and subtle a lot of the arrangements are, and how much goes over your head on the first listen. The brilliantly subtle samples, melodies and small flourishes all add to the atmosphere immeasurably as they lay buried in the mix, just waiting to be discovered like the nuances of a great book. The end result magically blends the nostalgic vibe of Dol Guldur with the denseness and intricacy of Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame.

mountainsEvery track here is unique and brilliant — the warmth and infectiousness of ‘Flammifer’, the painfully mournful ‘Earthshine’, the triumphant and massive sounding title track all combine to create an album with no weak tracks at all. There are things that I would have done differently if I were them — I’d have certainly not made every track fade out, and I’d have probably changed the unusually buzzy guitar tone, but this doesn’t distract too much from the things this album does unbelievably right.

Summoning is the result of two musical geniuses that have such a strange artistic vision and an unwavering desire to create flawless atmospheres that have yet to be matched in the 20 years they’ve been a collective. Old Mornings Dawn isn’t the cumulation of every record up to now, but the re-affirmation of why they’re two of the most important musicians in metal today. They understand the source material deeply, but know how to build on it in such meaningful ways that no band can match. With this mutual vision they create some of the finest, most intricate and dense music in the scene, and prove themselves to be one of the most unusual black metal bands ever. A masterful work made by masters — apt, no?

 

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  • Holden Molotsky

    Spinning Oath Bound right now. Can’t wait to hear this album.

  • Lemonitos

    Who’s the author of the review?

    • Under the title of every review we list the author. In this case, it’s Noctus.

    • Noctus

      Hello!
      -Noctus

  • OzanCan

    Summoning is an awesome band. I am glad they decided to release a new album. I mean FINALLY!

  • Niklas Lord

    The news about an new album and the review made me so damn happy!

  • sathriel

    Wow, new Summoning? Hell to the yeah. Great news, can’t wait to give it a listen.

  • Wow, 4.5 for another Black Metal release? good year for BM on AMG.

  • OzanCan

    My vote (if it is considered at all) for the Record of the Month for May. Definitely! m/

    • Noctus

      Well it’s actually released in June but it definitely has my vote for then!

  • Felipe Wirth Quiney

    Man, I can’t wait for my local CD store to import this… It’s going to be expensive, but that’s the price of listening to metal while living in Brazil. Still, Summoning is worth it. I still listen to Land of the Dead almost every day.

    Want to be floored by black metal: go to YouTube and search for ‘Aquilus’. The guy reminds me of Summoning, but with a more doom feel.

    • Brian K

      Yes to Aquilus! Amazing stuff. Like Summoning, though, it is only somewhat “metal” and more an amazingly well developed neoclassical symphony!!!

    • Noctus

      Aquilus is okay but incredibly long-winded, unfortunately. Really can’t get into it.

  • MeatWolf

    This record is a flashback to an even earlier age, something like Minas Morgul I’d say. And that’s why I really don’t like almost everything about it, since I dig everything since Stronghold and have no sympathy for everything before it.

    Anyway, the guitar tone is much rawer than anything on 3 previous records and it especially hurts to hear this after the magnificent tone of Oath Bound. Same goes for vocals, even the firm voice of Protector I usually adore sounds like Silenius on previous albums while Silenius sounds almost unbearable to me.The keys are really background and create almost no memorable melodies whatsoever. The atmosphere and the mood has already shifted to “light” from “dark” on Oath Bound but here there’s simply too much of it, especially with oriental tunes on Caradhras, Flammifer etc. The choirs are not harmonic and don’t really give any epic touch to the songs they’re used in.

    To sum it up, the songs I at least somehow liked are Flammifer (nice lead tribal drumming pattern) and The Wandering Fire, which contains the most prominent melody here.

    Let’s see what’s in those 2 bonus tracks + those 6 unfinished tracks the band is going to release next year.

    • Ralph Plug

      Wow, talk about having a different experience! I really don’t see how anyone could love everything since Stronghold and not enjoy this album. As far as I’m concerned, it’s more of the same (and not in a bad way, mind), with only a few tweaks here and there. Old Mornings Dawn is really not that different from the few albums that preceded it.

      I mean, I respect your opinion and all, but I just don’t get it. It’s as if we’re listening to two completely different albums.

      • MeatWolf

        It’s the same style but it’s done in a different way. Less prominent keys, less of the accent on the melodic side of it, the mix is raw over the edge as well as the vocals etc. Maybe they were lacking the inspiration for so many years and going to take a very long break after 2014 again not without a reason.

        • Ralph Plug

          I’m going to give Stronghold and Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame a spin tonight, because I really don’t hear that big a difference. At least not from Oath Bound, which I’ve been playing continuously for the past week. Maybe it’s just me then.

          • MeatWolf

            For me, Oath Bound is the magnum opus of Summoning, they did everything they could perfect there.

        • Noctus

          Less prominent keys? What? The MIDI/synth arrangements in this are absolutely huge. I felt it was disappointing at first too but it grew on me a lot so maybe it’ll be the same for you.

          • David Rosales

            It actually sounds STRIPPED DOWN. Go back and listen to Oath Bound. Count the different melody lines on each track and you’ll hear it. ;)

          • Noctus

            Old Mornings Dawn has exactly the same complexity and use of melodies if you ask me.

          • David Rosales

            Take the song “Old Mornings Dawn” (one of the best songs in this album, if you ask me) and listen to the direction of the music. Almost all the instruments move in the same direction and even sort of reflect each other’s lines. It is worse in other songs such as Of Pale White Morn. That parallel motion contributes little to the structure, creating only bulk but little harmonic value, I think. You can contrast this to Khazad Dum from the album Dol Goldur or Beleriand from Oath Bound.

            All that being said, I want to say I really do like this album! But being fair, I find it a bit disappointing when looking back to their past releases. It is not only about what I expect as a fan, but the simplicity also means that it does not weather repeated listens as well…

      • David Rosales

        I can totally see where he is coming from. I think you need to deepen your analysis of the music.

    • Richard Saunders

      Man, you guys are simply awesome. Another band I hadn’t heard of, and, they’ve blown me away. A simply brilliant review for a brilliant album and a brilliant band. Definite contender for album of June! Thanks Noctus. m/

    • David Rosales

      I agree 100%
      Although I did find Dol Goldur quite deep, much more than Minas Morgul.
      I have not taken a close listen to Stronghold, but I do think Oath Bound is the best they’ve put out.

  • Robert Mróz

    I was never paying any particular attention to this band (I mean, I had a couple of spins of “MInas Morgul” some years ago, but I don’t remember a thing from it), but this? This is stellar, spectacular. Those melodies, intricate and beautiful, rather complex and yet so catchy and memorable. 5/5 album for me, only the second one this year.

  • Isaac VanDuyn

    You guys sooo need to review Caladan Brood’s debut. The synthesized instruments are sometimes a little cheesy, but for a debut it’s astoundingly good. I honestly think they beat Summoning at their own game.