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 create 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.
Every 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?