By Liam Toner (@tonerliam)
Summoning are a symphonic/atmospheric black metal band from Austria who, after one traditional 2nd wave style black metal album in 1993, morphed its sound into the synth-heavy epic take on the genre that opted for programmed percussion and stripped back on the guitar riffs to form that signature Summoning sound. With Doom We Come sticks to the usual formula the band has finessed over the years wherein the guitars leave behind an evil and dissonant tremolo picking style of most black metal and opts for more melodic musicianship that functions more as a textural element than anything else. Textural is the key word in describing the band’s sound, as guitars, vocals, and synth after synth are layered on top of minimalist structures creating the long, epic, fantasy-inspired tracks that have become synonymous with the band’s sound.
At this point it feels necessary to put in a disclaimer here as although Summoning’s music can be thought of as majestic, ethereal and heroic, it can also come across as cheesy, campy and downright nerdy (in the best way of course). The band have spent their career making songs about J.R.R.Tolkien’s rich lore-filled back catalogue set in the fantasy world of Middle Earth and generally have more in common with Dungeon Synth than they do with Darkthrone, so bear that in mind.
Tar-Calion opens the album and is an instrumental track that lures you into the cinematic atmospheres that will continue throughout the album. The core sound of the track utilises the harmonic minor scale, which is found in traditional Arabic, Egyptian and Indian music, as well as other Eastern cultures. This scale, when used by Summoning, conjures up images of a mysterious far-off land in the listener’s mind and overall sets the scene for the epic journey to come.
The vocals first come in on the second track Silvertine and coarse and raspy they may be, the vocals come across intelligibly, which benefits the music well as it allows the listener to become immersed in the bands’ images of icy, mountainous landscapes and the realms of Tolkien’s works that so heavily inspire the band. The vocals come off as jarringly strong on the album in general and nearly steal the show on tracks such as Night Fell Behind which is a personal high point on the album as its darker, more melancholy tone gives the track a mystical quality that stands out from the more uplifting atmospheres present on the other tracks.
Summoning tends to keep song structures quite simple and minimal as usual on With Doom We Come, sticking to the same slow tempos throughout each track and not even making many changes with the chord progression in tracks that can last up to 10 minutes long. This would come across as a demerit to the band’s sound if they weren’t so adept at letting different instruments come and go to keep the songs’ energy moving. The band will break at times and just let the synths play to give the long tracks some breathing room before the rest of the instrumentation joins in again. Other times, immaculate choir singing will be introduced and grasp your attention again. On Carcharoth, Summoning employs a very uncharacteristic technique for them in the form of a grandiose key change that takes place halfway through the song and lifts the track to even more fantastical heights.
The production on With Doom We Come is a lot warmer than the tinnier sound you would find on the bands earlier releases. And although raw lo-fi textures have always better suited the genre of black metal, the rich, spacious production fits Summoning’s own aesthetic far better and allows the lush layers of synthesisers to shine through the mix.
With Doom We Come clocks in at around 1 hour and 5 minutes, which you might be inclined to think is perhaps a wee bit too long. However, you’ll likely find yourself able to sit through it all without growing bored. Plus, each track is so crucial to the album’s overall sound that removing any songs from the tracklist would severely detract from the album, as each track stands out well on its own.
Summoning manages to bring a great level of quality on this album despite the fact that you could argue that they’ve been releasing essentially the same album again and again over the years. But this just goes to show how timeless their nostalgic, medieval sound is, and will probably continue to be. If you’ve never heard a Summoning album before and you are prepared to embrace the goofy fantasy elements of black metal, then With Doom We Come wouldn’t be a bad place to start.