One look at the cover painting of Summoning's latest release for Napalm Records, Oath Bound, and you just know that you are going to be in for a symphonic and epic journey of fantasty filled metal. Now eight albums into their career, the Austrian team of Silenius (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Protector (vocals, guitars, keyboards) once again return to J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth for inspiration, and have created a atmospheric, melodic, and symphonic black metal album that even contains a song sung in the black tongue language of the Orcs of Mordor! Fans of Dimmu Borgir, Old Man's Child, and Cradle of Filth, as well as symphonic prog lovers, will surely find much to dig into here!
After the instrumental and orchestrated opener "Bauglir", the band gets down to business with "Across the Streaming Tide", a lengthy epic filled with keyboards, doomy guitar riffs, thunderous drums, and eerie black metal vocals. A similar, yet less metal edge is followed on "Mirdautas Vras" (featuring the Orc language), as the keyboards make up the main instrumentation along with the banshee black metal shrieks. Guitars return in full force, alongside some creepy church organ sounds on the ponderous "Might and Glory", and driving legato guitar patterns combine with proggy keyboard melodies on the majestic black metal piece "Beleriand".
The song "Northward", if listened to from a purely instrumental point of view, could easily serve as part of the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings, with its catchy and upbeat keyboard orchestrations and driving rhythms, but the shrill black metal rasps keep it firmly in the metal realm. The same can be said for the adventurous "Menegroth" and the chilling closer "Land of the Dead", both with soaring keyboard melodies, choirs, and catchy guitar harmonies. In fact, the keyboard work on the synths and piano is so close to progressive rock on these songs that if it weren't for the vocals this wouldn't be classified as metal at all. Which is one reason why this album, for all its strengths, might not catch on completely with the metal crowd. In the end, it's just not heavy enough, even though the message and end result is massively powerful. Sure, the vocals could use a bit more variety to them (add more choirs guys!) , and I'd add a few more heavier guitar riffs here and there, but otherwise this is probably the most symphonic and atmospheric black metal album I have ever heard, and I urge prog-rock fans to check this band out if you haven't already. Long live Tolkien!
2.Across the Streaming Tide
4.Might and Glory
8.Land of the Dead