“And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and a half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.”
The works of J.R.R. Tolkien have probably done more to instill a love for traditional European culture and identity than arguably any other literature. Painting a world full of majestic landscapes, magic, and a place where heroes still live and die would make any youth wish for Middle-Earth over Modern Earth.
It makes perfect sense that Tolkien would inspire many metal acts in their lyrics and their choice of band names. But few metal artists have been able to capture the epic majesty of Middle Earth with their music itself—with the glorious exception of Summoning.
Summoning began their career as a decent, melodic Black Metal band that fit within the style of the promising Austrian metal scene. That changed when they decided to push guitars to the back of their sound and embark on a keyboard-driven style that became the defining feature of their style on their second album Minas Morgul.
But it is on their third album and magnum opus Dol Guldur where Summoning hits their stylistic peak.
One of the main criticisms of their music from the metal crowd is that it is too heavy on the keyboard instead of the guitars. Unlike most Black Metal, the music isn't aggressive or particularly fierce. It is more akin to a soundtrack for an incredible fantasy film that is too cool to exist. Also, unlike most Black Metal music, Summoning's work is less dark and foreboding. This is more of the hero's soundtrack than that of the cruel villains he slays.
Returning to the criticism that they're too heavy on the keyboards, this is what gives Summoning the ability to weave a sonic landscape that allows you to escape the banality of the modern world for the enchanting terrain of fantasy. It helps that the music is minimalistic and repeats motifs throughout the (long) duration of a composition. It's simple, but it works to create a trance-like effect for a listener wishing to experience another world with their choice of music.
On Dol Guldur, the songs are long and are bereft of choruses. Stereotypical, rock song structure is left far behind for more adventurous song structures that allow its atmosphere to take precedence over trying to rock. Keyboard riffs drive the music instead of guitar riffs, which gives the music a very different edge from that of their metal peers. Drums are programmed and the guitars serve as a kind of buzzing reminder of the danger surrounding us and that not all is beauty in this fantasy world. The highlight of the album would have to be the epic middle number “Khazad Dum”—a powerful 10 minutes that never at any point sounds cheesy.
No other artist in any genre is able to capture the atmosphere of Tolkien's world like Summoning, and they do a masterful job of it on Dol Guldur. If you're a fan of neoclassical like Winglord, you should easily dig this. Even if you hate Black Metal for being too harsh, you should give this is a try and realize there's more to the genre than Burzum's early works.
All of Summoning's albums are worth a listen, but Dol Guldur is where you should start.