Summoning, the Austrian lords of epic black metal, have returned after five years since their last release, ‘Old Mornings Dawn’. With their eighth full-length studio album, entitled ‘With Doom We Come’, the two-piece, which comprises—as it always has—composers Richard “Protector” Lederer and Michael “Silenius” Gregor, the duo has released a record comprising eight tracks of blackened, atmospheric dissonance with a lyrical inspiration that is ever-rooted in the works of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Summoning has had a storied career since their debut album ‘Lugburz’ in 1995. Their influence is felt strongly in all of their contemporaries—acts such as Emyn Muil, Eldamar, Caladan Brood, and so forth—yet oddly enough, Summoning have chosen the path of obscurity, remaining relatively underground and away from the spotlight where other influential black metal bands were brought forward. What remains special about Summoning then as it stands in 2018 is that you have here a band that’s music stands purely as an untainted art form, even 23 years after their first album. In ‘With Doom We Come’, Protector and Silenius have yet again delivered an unsullied, atmospheric masterpiece rooted in moments of awe, operatic wonder, and the dark tones of nature.
As the album opens with Tar-Calion, a song touching on the final days of Númenor’s last king, the prideful Ar-Pharazôn The Golden, a man who challenged the gods themselves, you are met by the cold sounds of a tolling drum before Tar-Calion’s narrative slides in over a sullen riff. Throughout the song, phrases such as “Kneel before your conqueror” and “You will kneel!” are continuously stated, allowing the acoustic riff and the accompanying distorted riff in the background to create an atmosphere of unease. The folk whistles add a serene touch to the dissonance before the album moves forward with Silvertine, a track centered on the mythos of the mountain peak, Celebdil, which was the site where Gandalf the Grey fought against the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings and the two beings fell. Silvertine is a powerful track, laced with folkish overtones and a strong, almost cacophonous rhythm section. As the song plays, its strength comes in the pained screams of Protector as he narrates Gandalf’s plight. The piano and mournful chants further enliven this track, helping form a perfect accoutrement.
What is beautiful about the epic black metal subgenre is that these songs aren’t just songs for the sake of music; their purpose is to tell stories through the unique approach of music – stories of heroism and triumph, of sorrow and loss of life. Few acts have mastered this craft as well as Summoning has, and even though the drums heard are still programmed as they always have been, it’s far less noticeable here compared to their earlier records. Rather, the drums form a hardened sinew in the sonic realm Summoning has forged. This approach becomes more evident as the album moves onto Carcharoth and Herumor, two songs that sing respectively of the royal werewolf of Morgoth and the Black Númenórean who survived the Downfall of Númenor and went on to serve Sauron.
Barrow-downs is more a straight-forward ambient track, and while Frodo and company’s journey down there early in The Fellowship of the Ring is a fascinating slice of rare horror in the Rings books, this track is unfortunately probably the only real disappointment on ‘With Doom We Come’ for me. Over its nigh three-minute length, the track never really escapes the feeling of it being filler. Thankfully, however, the trend isn’t continued by the next track, Night Fell Behind; which immediately brings the album back on track again. Night Fell Behind holds a rare example of relatively clean singing from Protector, with the song coming across more like a bardic tale being told on a wintry evening, given its strong acoustic influence.
Mirklands may be my favourite track on the album, opening with notes that conjure imagery of walking through the bleak terrain of Mirkwood on a late autumn’s night, while all around you—as you draw deeper into the forest—the tree branches seem to close in over you. The harsh vocals here are at their iciest and the folkish, ambient tones at their calmest, creating an ethereal fusion of antithetic musical themes.
As the longest track on ‘With Doom We Come’, album closer With Doom I Come ends the record on a thoughtful, sombre note. Bringing together all the elements that slowly blossom over the course of the record, With Doom I Come is a sobering example of how far Protector and Silenius’ craft has grown over the two decades they’ve been a band. This album puts you at peace where you don’t expect it, and opens your eyes to sorrow, longing, and tragedy in a truly incredible way. This is an amazing album.