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Summoning - Stronghold
Review: Through free fall between the abstract and the visceral, Summoning change their widely appreciated format of ambient Tolkein wanderlust metal into a cavernous but deeply abstracted melodic ambience in which harmony becomes a tonal vectoring on an ambiguous emptiness conventionally used to indicate finality which here suggests an order of the universe that uses ruin to carve space for growth.
The voice of silent demise spreads this music like smoke through trees, settling gently in the spaces it constantly reveals, overwhelming other sensation in the infinite imagination it uncovers by revealing the meaninglessness of the material. Leaving home, diving through clouds, abandoning Saigon... there is a sense of journey beginning in these mostly consonant pastoral ballads disguised in black metal vocals and intricate rhythm leads. Under the gentle aesthetic Summoning launch freely associating epic songs of the abyss.
Aesthetically Stronghold forges a more rock 'n roll style from that suggested by Burzum's Filosofem with its multitudinous layers of budget melodic riffs, using a Darkthrone-inspired minimalism of complementary riffs cycling through loops of thematic motives. The almost tropical feel to percussion returns from the Nightshade Forests EP, with loose bass and tom keeping a consistent beat under high-hat, cymbal and roll varied for reflective emphasis.
At its core relentlessly organic and renewing, this album ventures into the emotional and the nihilistic with equal ability and makes a top-notch metal listening experience. As neoclassical rock opera, this music incurs the risk of becoming through a tendency toward rock 'n roll conventions which fill small cracks in composition, another overblown saga like the pretentious melodrama of too many "Viking" bands. But none have captured the melodic intensity here which in repeated layers, develops prismatically into mood poems which deepen with exploration, lighting the emptiness of wanderlust with regal ambience and enduring beauty.