Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn
Napalm Records
Epic Black Metal
8 songs (65' 43")
Release year: 2013
Summoning, Napalm Records
Reviewed by Andy
Album of the month

It's been a long wait. Austrian atmospheric black metal duo Summoning has stayed quiet for seven years, and finally has something new for us to enjoy. The flip side of the delight when a band like this resurfaces with a new album after a while (especially to an unabashed fan of their work such as myself) is that there's always the chance of a horrible disappointment, so I listened to this with bated breath. One need not be nervous, however, for the result is a good balance of new and old. Silenus and Protector are continuing the trend of their previous album, Oath Bound, while trying a few new things in this album, but most of their experiments have been true masterpieces, and Old Mornings Dawn is no exception.

If anyone expected Summoning to change their production style, stop making songs about the world of Tolkien, or get rid of slow medieval battle marches with horns and flutes, they will be disappointed. As is their custom since their first full-length, the first track is an instrumental piece, with a somewhat more upbeat march than used in the past. Flammifer follows it, with a similar layered, distorted guitar sound to that used in the Oath Bound album and backed by ringing synths and trumpets. The drums are even more echoing than in past albums and have a more complex sequencing than before, while the melodies are, if anything, even more grandly bombastic than ever, fit for armies of Gondor and Mordor to march to them. The title track, following Flammifer, feels like a continuation of the same idea (and probably is; Summoning has often reworked pieces or copied ideas out of a lot of their past work and demos and rebuilt them into a new song or two), with a different and equally lovely melody and a choir providing backup vocals.

Here's where Summoning starts experimenting a bit. The White Tower is a standout on this album; the aforementioned guitar, heavily layered, completely fills the listener's ears, and at first it's weird and distracting, but when the drums, additional synths, and vocals kick in (with what sounds like guest female vocal samples on part of it), the riff quiets down slightly and lets the whole song fit together, which I thought was rather clever. Caradhras features a synth melody partway through it with a sawtooth quality to the sound, much more electronic than some of the other tracks, which is interesting as well.

The overall tone of this album is stately, continuing Summoning's trend towards less dark and more heroic/uplifting tunes, but with some harsher, electronic elements used in place of some of the softer synths of the past. Almost every track has a steady marching beat, even heavier layering/mixing, and vocals that seem to be even more distant and further down in the mix than before. Their last album's new emphasis on layered guitars and some choirs are also further embraced. The final track, Earthshine, is a good summation of the whole album: A dramatic alternation of their layered black-metal guitar and a piano/flute combo, with more of a melody to the vocals (which usually are almost tuneless) and a choir chorus. It's hard to find any faults with any Summoning full-length, and I really can't find any here.

Silenus and Protector have always been obsessive perfectionists who continually tinker with their signature sound, and here their careful experiments pay off, in the form of another atmospheric epic that needs to be listened to in its entirety to get the full effect. If one can't get into the J.R.R. Tolkien soundscape that they paint so cleverly, one won't like this album any more than their other offerings, but their world, sometimes as difficult to comprehend as their unreadable band logo, is truly beautiful, and so worthwhile to explore that one should definitely make the effort. This album, immediately recognizable as Summoning without ever seeing the label, shows a slow but steady evolution in a musical output that remains as spellbinding as ever.

Killing Songs :
All of them
Andy quoted 91 / 100
Alex quoted 83 / 100
Other albums by Summoning that we have reviewed:
Summoning - Minas Morgul reviewed by Andy and quoted CLASSIC
Summoning - Dol Guldur reviewed by Tony and quoted 92 / 100
Summoning - Oath Bound reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Summoning - Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame reviewed by Alex and quoted 81 / 100
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