Adventurous Austrian duo Summoning back with woodsy ‘Old Mornings Dawn’

summoningIt’s getting pretty warm here in the States, and for me, the time to go on long sojourns in the woods is making its way back around again. Luckily where I live, we’re blessed with a pretty nice parks system, so heading off on the trails for a few hours can be a fun adventure, but you’ll always find your way back again. That temporary escape is always nice.

Along with that, it’s nice to have music that can accompany and soundtrack the trip if I’m by myself (which, admittedly, I rarely am) or that helps me get into the same headspace if I’m in the car, at work, or wherever. I’ve always found that vibe when listening to long-running Austrian band Summoning and their rich, folk-led, atmospheric dark and black metal. Their music is full of adventure and imagination to begin with when considering their Tolkien-inspired lyrics and their forays into the Dark Ages, and they do their thing so lushly, it’s impossible not to get caught up and whisked away to the forest, where who knows what awaits you.

summoning coverFor those of us who have followed Summoning’s musical path since their birth two decades ago and their 1995 debut “Lugburz,” we’ve been waiting a long while for new music. The band hasn’t given us a new full-length in seven long years, the last coming with 2006’s excellent “Oath Bound,” and in the meantime, I think we all were kind of wondering what was taking so long. Then again, their craft comes to them naturally, so they couldn’t exactly move if they weren’t inspired. So despite the long stretch of time between their last record and newly arriving “Old Mornings Dawn,” they clearly were tapping into something that moved them. Perhaps old videogames like “Zelda” or “Rygar” even came to mind, as much of the glorious synth on this seventh album sounds like what you might hear if you were controlling the hero from one of those franchises and trying to save the day. It’s a total rush, one that’ll make you feel like holding aloft a goblet of victory and war sword when it’s over.

The two who create all of this are the same who have been at the helm of every Summoning album since 1995’s “Minas Morgul,” the band’s second album. Protector handles vocals, guitars, keyboards, and programming, while Silenius takes care of vocals, keyboards, and bass. Both are members of other bands such as Die Verbannten, Ice Ages, Cromm, and Amestigon, but they do their best work with Summoning, a project that always finds new ways to capture the mind and body and give you something to help you rise above the daily doldrums.

After the shining gold intro that is “Evernight,” it’s right into “Flammifer,” built on tons of percussion, even more keyboards, a feel that the song is a hymn pulled from the Middle Ages, and melodies that will sweep you up and carry you into battle with them. The chorus is understated but very emotional, and I’ve noticed I can’t get that sequence out of my head. The title track sounds like the spirited music that would greet you upon completing a new level on an adventure videogame, as screamy vocals erupt, horns blow, and victory seems to burst from every corner. As the song surges and reaches its conclusion, a king-like monologue erupts, almost as if it’s reading the state of the land. So ridiculous and so awesome. “The White Tower” opens with steely guitar lines and huge woodwinds, and later strange chants and colorful melodies meet head on with black savagery. This sounds like a song written for a sun-splashed field during a summer festival.

“Caradhras” opens with big strings, drama-filled synth (no, really, synth?), and an abrasive guitar line that meets up with woodsy choruses and more mangled fun that goes on for nearly 10 minutes that don’t feel nearly that long. “Old Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves” has tribal-style drumming and throat-mangling screams, wild howling, and magnificent compositions that soar along with the bird constantly screeching during the song. “The Wandering Fire” sounds like the guys are trying to channel elder spirits and ancestral knowledge, with mallet-style drumming and high drama with music sounding like it’s trying to spark a fire that’ll light the entire forest. Closer “Earthshine” is the only track I’m not totally in love with, mostly because of the metalcore-style growl-singing that doesn’t sound that great. Musically, it’s just fine, as the guys meld black metal and atmospheric prog into a really weird stew.

It goes without saying I’m really excited to have Summoning back making music, and it also makes me want to find an old Nintendo and fire the bastard up for some drunken land-sacking. If we have to wait seven years for something this good, then that’s fine with me. But I’m not getting any younger and would love a few more Summoning masterpieces before I die in 350 years.

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