Summoning the Lich – United in Chaos Review

I’ve always felt like I sort of missed the boat on The Black Dahlia Murder. They were bursting onto the melodic death metal scene just as Amon Amarth was finding a wider audience with the now-classic With Oden On Our Side. I personally ended up falling down the Scandinavian melodeath rabbit hole, neglecting to pay attention to the American brand of melodeath that The Black Dahlia Murder was actively pioneering. In turn, I never fully appreciated the sound of the countless bands they’ve inspired; artists like Inferi are great for one-off listens, but nothing about that specific sound triggers compulsive returns. Summoning the Lich is built different. While ostensibly the same brand of modern melodic death metal, United in Chaos feels distinct in its approach, immediately familiar while providing a distinct refresh on genre tropes.

Summoning the Lich sets themselves apart from their peers by focusing on rhythmic weight over rapid fire leads. Less overtly melodic than The Black Dahlia Murder and less showy than Inferi, United in Chaos is nonetheless catchy as all fuck. The chorus riff in “Cult of the Ophidian” provides an excellent example of this talent. It’s literally just a repeated series of drop-tuned power chords, but the understated melody and diligent rhythmic pace makes it immediately memorable. Don’t be dissuaded by the deathcore tag; Summoning the Lich uses their deathcore passages as effective counterweights to the exhilaratingly quick passages, which are plentiful. Tracks like “Demon of the Snow” and “Hymns (of the Witches of the West)” are almost thrash-like in their galloping intensity, favorably reminding me of Sylosis‘ signature modern thrash. There are a deceptive number of influences at play, and the end result has immense staying power.

Strong songwriting is key to United in Chaos‘ success, as otherwise these elements could not comfortably coexist. Summoning the Lich‘s compositions are story-like in their fluidity, effortlessly transitioning between ideas and tempos. Refrains and verses are rarely reprised verbatim, ensuring the proceedings never grow static. Even so, Summoning the Lich could stand to work on their conclusions, as most tracks seem to end abruptly or with the dreaded fade-out. Dramatic finishing salvos would complement the songs far more effectively, especially given the dynamic songwriting at play. Otherwise, the twelve tracks on offer are universally successful, with only the atmospherically-geared title track exhibiting even the slightest dip in quality.

In terms of instrumental performances, United in Chaos is perfectly on par with the major players in modern melodeath, if not flashy enough to qualify for tech death status. Vocalist David Bruno, meanwhile, is downright exceptional. He can swap modes from death metal growls to deathcore pig squeals at the drop of a hat, and his higher pitch screams are delivered with more personality than just about any of his contemporaries. This dude rolls his motherfucking R’s while screaming, and somehow exercises enough control to pivot into a sort of scream-singing technique in the choruses of songs like “Demon of the Snow.” The clarity in his delivery allows United in Chaos‘ dark fantasy concept to shine through without hindrance, meaning the massively entertaining tales of monsters and necromancers are a fully integrated aspect of the listening experience.

There is little to criticize with what Summoning the Lich have accomplished with this very un-debut-like debut, and I feel bad for them that it fell in my lap. I picked this record up for review solely based on the fact that it’s death metal under the Prosthetic Records banner, and while it’s not at all what I expected, blind picks rarely work out as well as this one. While United in Chaos resonates with me more strongly that most of their contemporaries, their style is still not quite in my wheelhouse, which amplifies its minor imperfections in my brain. If you’re a seasoned fan of the modern strains of American melodic death metal or even deathcore, however, you might as well add an extra half point to my score by default. I can’t say if a blind purchase is a smart decision, but if any of this sounds even remotely appealing to you, I doubt you’ll in any way be disappointed either way.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: summoningthelich.com | summoningthelich.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/SummoningTheLich
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

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