Behold the greatest, most epic Summoning tale to date. Somehow this band keeps getting better and better after each album even though they have been around a while. Bands don’t do that very often. Their basic music structure has stayed the same: long songs full of keyboards, other synthesized symphonic instruments, a drum machine for that epic, fantasy-like drum style, and harsh guitars and monstrous, highly echoed black-metal style vocals. You know sometimes I hate mentioning the synthesization (new word invented by me) and drum machine, because the music is so good like that anyways. To new listeners it may seem “artificial” and repel your interest. Well it is a lot more pure and well-written than 99% of what is played on the radio today. The feeling, melody, and atmosphere is what matters when you delve into the realm of Summoning – not the technicality of the instruments being played.
Summoning has broken the boundaries of metal long ago. Their songs, even though they contain harsh vocals, are somehow very soothing. It might be because I’m so used to them by now though. Summoning’s basic song structure is actually kind of repetitive, with the brass instruments and keyboards “in front” of the music, more prominent than the distorted guitars and sometimes even the vocals seem more like a background element. Multiple times within a song it usually breaks down to one element of the song. Sometimes most of the other instruments just stop and you hear the drums. Sometimes it’s the keyboard, brass, or flute melody. Sometimes they introduce a choir or some kind of chanting vocals or some sort of samples, and “stop” the music for that. It may sound odd, but trust me, it works.
Somehow the songs on this album really keep getting better than the one before. I think the last song is the best, and not including the intro, the first song is the least interesting.
“Bauglir” is a short intro, it begins with some imperial Flute playing and percussion, slowly adding layers of horns and more percussion, breaks down for some samples of a roaring army or something, and some narrative-style talking. “Across the Screaming Tide” consists of mostly brass instruments and later on keyboards. In the middle of the song, it breaks down into nothing but the intricate, rhythmic drumming. It’s the same drum loop that plays throughout most of the song, but when it is alone it emphasizes it so much. “Mirdautas Vras” starts off with that hard siege-like drumming, quickly adding layers of horns, and vocals. All but the drums halt as sounds of a great dragon or beast emerge, several times.
“Might And Glory” starts with a crushing riff, quickly adding contrasting keyboard melodies, some of my favorite keyboard melodies of any Summoning song. There is also a clarinet-sounding instrument. The music halts and makes way for lone keyboard melodies with a few drums. It also does the other way around, and makes way for a drum solo with deep keyboards in the background. The last few minutes of the song they add some choir-like vocals at the perfect moment. “Beleriand” quite an interesting contrast throughout this song: monstrous vocals complimented by a very proper sounding violin melody.
“Northward” begins with a calm piano melody with siege-like drums from the first instant, samples of a warrior struggling for his life. This song goes through many different ephemeral, cycling parts, from very ambient, to harsh with horns and then piano melodies in the background, everything just has an absolutely ingenious sequence of different movements and melody progressions in this song… this song makes me feel sorry for people who just shun away harsh vocals and are missing something so complex and moving.
As the album pushes uphill towards the end, “Menegroth” contains a strumming harp somewhere underneath the chaos. After the vicious vocals temporarily submerge, the harp melody is played amongst nothing but drums and some sort of deep atmospheric ambiance. After another few minutes, the ambient part contains a horn melody. In the middle of the chaos if you listen carefully, the harp melody returns again, and shortly after, the music to halt for some deep choir-like vocals, a lonely, haunting vocal sample… “I say that we will go on, and this doom I add” then the little harp melody returns, more clearly than ever before with all the surrounding music stopped, then starts progressing with different instruments and rhythms, shortly adding the guitars again, repeating that haunting vocal sample. This is probably the most orgasmic moment on this album.
At the summit of the mountain, “Land Of The Dead” really feels like the closing of a long journey or empire, beginning with a somewhat triumphant, epic keyboard melody with flutes, moving into the body of the song, keeping those melodies behind the harsh vocals and guitars. About 7 minutes in, a choir abruptly takes over the vocal duty the same as the flute melody, and then is surprisingly shared with the harsh vocals for a very unique encounter. A Choir might sound cheesy or too melodramatic, but it *really* is not. It fits perfectly in Summoning’s musical realm. This ending song eventually fades out with the choir and flute melody leaving you in astonishment, confusion and contentment.
With all these unique elements of songwriting, the bleak, poetic lyrics, (look them up and read along at least once) the instruments used, and the amazing melodies they produce, Summoning always enraptures the listener, unavoidably filling their imagination with images of castles, hillsides and heroes in medieval times, not to mention armies, battles, and the violence and darkness of this era, all blending together for some of the most distinctive and surreal music ever produced.