Okay, I am hooked. The Austrian synthie pop Black Metal universe gets me feeling all funny inside. Especially if this talks to my benevolent Depeche Mode nerve that was long thought dead, but now tries to resurrect itself. Seriously! Summoning with their 2013 Old Mornings Dawn are marching down their straight Roman road to Middle Earth still after all these years. To be more precise, it is 7 long years of waiting – incidentally the critical period in any kind of relationship.
And the question here will mainly be: Who delivers the better Atmospheric Black Metal? Caladan Brood – the new flavor on the market (well, not quite that new anymore) – or Summoning with their last record? Well, interestingly, whilst the latter have certainly invented this genre to a very large extent, the former really delivered from their perch in Utah. Sorry guys, ’tis just the way it is.
Summoning‘s scheme of Tolkien driven stories turned music is endearing. Lord of the Rings sounds better than the somewhat cloudy and (way too much) academically sophisticated Malazan landscapes in the Caladan Brood universe. And it is indeed much easier to relate to books that have been around for – what? – some 100 years or so than the other way around. Well, not quite, but almost.
The disc projects a much more coherent sound than what its predecessor Oath Bound in 2006 was ever able to do. Not that it is better in any way, it is not. Yet, Old Mornings Dawn moves away from a more austere soundscape – or at least tries to. This new concoction is melodic to a point of becoming melodramatic at times. Or should I call it mushy? Protector and Silenius present us however with a new very complete piece of work, nicely alternating their high-pitched growls with clear voice passages that are remarkable.
This ranges from typical fare on Old Mornings Dawn (the title song) to almost experimental stuff on Caradhras containing some sort of a hypnotic solo in the middle. The themes of Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves (the fuck happened when they created that name?) and The Wandering Fire are kind of similar. But the sewn together stance of both tracks is quite alluring, make no mistake. The full monty ends with Earthshine. Not an outro, oh no, but an epic piece of work, actually terminating the album on a nice clear vocal chorus. THIS is the kind of tune I would like to hear much more on Old Mornings Dawn. As is sometimes the case, the gem pretty much comes last.
But then the drum machine will get to you. The terrible, plastic drum machine, which will leave a bad taste in the listener’s mouth after a while. This and too many MIDI parts of the mainstream kind. Then there is the somewhat questionable synthesizer work sprinkled around the record, coupled with – how to call it – a lack of innovation. Or perhaps innovation not pushed far enough. And these elements combined are very bad and pull the record down big time. In addition, what is the friggin’ spaghetti rap in some of the tracks? The Wandering Fire being one of them. I reckon this should represent the sound of battle. Gimme a break!
Now, after a gazillion of listens, Old Mornings Dawn nevertheless deserves some considerable credit. It is – as mentioned before – a more melodic bowl of pottage than Oath Bound ever was. But I would not align to some parts of the blindly obedient fan base that gives whatever their synthie pop gods produce a mighty nod – good, bad or indifferent. Forsooth, even Angry Metal Guy, whom I usually value very much, gave this record a shining fanboy account.
However, by and large Summoning have produced a solid Atmospheric Black Metal album that I can without any qualms subscribe to. But are they beating their copycat Yankee friends from the mighty Mormon city of Salt Lake City? Nope, they don’t. Sorry. Come again, Summoning, get us some more substance and oomph. For the moment, you have competition on your radar. And Old Mornings Dawn is not enough to move ahead again in the genre as done before.