To be very honest, I did not expect a new album from the Austrian ambient black metal duo Summoning anymore, not after the seven years of silence that followed the sublime Oath Bound. So when the news broke that Old Mornings Dawn was on its way, it came quite out of the blue. Will our favourite Tolkien-inspired black metal band be able to top what many people still regard as their finest hour, or does Old Mornings Dawn fall flat in that regard. Here, we find out.
If there is one thing you can say about Summoning, it’s that there is no band quite like it. The strangely haunting, ambient black metal, accompanied by almost militairistic percussion and the icy black screams of Protector is really one of a kind, and I am glad to be able to report nothing has changed in that respect. Summoning is, in my book, also the only band able to put a drum computer to good use; here, the digital drums actually enhance the overall sound, instead of detracting from it.
Old Mornings Dawn starts off with an instrumental intro called Evernight. We are slowly eased into the music by whispering voices that immediately remind us of Galadriel’s opening speech in Peter Jackson’s first The Lord of the Rings film, before Summoning pulls open a giant can of epic, and unleashes some astounding digital choral work and marching drums. It’s like Silenius and Protector are opening the gates and telling us that yes, we are about to embark on an epic journey. It’s also a promise that is easily kept over the course of what is the longest Summoning album to date.
After Evernight, Flammifer bursts out with full force, and it immediately feels like it has only been weeks since Oath Bound came out. This is absolute classic Summoning material, ticking all the right boxes. Immediately apparent is the increase of folk instrumentation. Yes, the flutes and the horns still come from a digital source, but they sound more real than ever, and are featured prominently on this album. The first song to really shine in this regard is the title track, with its epic male choral parts and a huge amount of digital woodwork. Another great example of this is Caradhras, which features the harp and the violin.
Most songs clock in at eight minutes or more, but time flies by. Old Mornings Dawn is a thoroughly immersive experience, where Summoning paint amazing sonic landscapes that take you away to Middle-earth and refuse to let you leave for at least an hour. It’s a gripping musical journey, made all the more spellbinding through the use of sound effects. Wolves howl in the distance, eagles screech high in the skies, you can hear the icy cold winds soaring about Caradhras and the waters of Evernight. Is it as good or as gripping as Oath Bound, with its Mirdautas Vras, sung entirely in the (neo-)Black Speech of Mordor? Time will tell. Oath Bound had the luxury of being able to gestate for seven years. Let’s hope it will not take another seven years before Summoning take us on another journey. Until then, however, Old Mornings Dawn is an album any fan of this type of music should not miss. Do yourself a favour though, and try to get the limited edition, which features two extra bonus tracks; they’re worth it.
Label: Napalm Records
- Evernight (2:48)
- Flammifer (7:07)
- Old Mornings Dawn (9:29)
- The White Tower (9:35)
- Caradhras (9:32)
- Of Pale White Morn (8:22)
- The Wandering Fire (8:02)
- Earthshine (9:33)
- Protector – guitars, vocals, keyboards
- Silenius – bass, vocals, keyboards
Review by Ralph Plug