On October 16th, 1995, Napalm Records released Summoning’s second album, Minas Morgul; it is arguably the first release by the band to showcase their signature sound. Minas Morgul is heavy on repetition, ambiance, and cheap keyboards, but in spite of its minimalist elements (or perhaps because of them), it’s a surprisingly sophisticated work. On full display here is Summoning’s ability to convey an overarching mood or idea without resorting to extreme aesthetic shifts or overstuffing their tracks. In the process, Summoning often leaves behind conventional black metal technique but never abandons the themes at the core of their music – war, wandering, fantasy, triumph, and so forth. The band’s next album (Dol Guldur) refines much of the technique and production surrounding this approach, but Minas Morgul is still an excellent album 20 years after its debut.
The crossover between metal and keyboard music is vast and well-documented to the point that the well-dressed death metal site simply ignores instrumentation and picks the keyboard bands that sound as evil and nihilistic as death metal. Whether that’s works by Neptune Towers, Beherit, Jaaportit, Goatcraft, Burzum or Danzig, evil metal has crossed over to occult keyboards.
Another entry into this world is Khand, made by lifelong metalhead and now synthesizer jockey Arillius. Describing his music as “cosmic ambient,” which overlaps with black ambient and dark ambient and neoclassical, Arillius started Khand back in 1998. Influenced by medieval, space and fantasy themes, Khand’s demo “Interstellar Dominions” was released in 2006 and immediately attracted an unusual but dedicated audience. Seven years later, Khand released The Fires of Celestial Ardour which is now available on tape for those who wish to order it.
The Fires of Celestial Ardour shows Khand having refined its style and narrowed its focus, which enables the band to train its resources on a certain type of deep space exploration sound. For those who want to experiment, the album is available as a free download from hi.arc.tow records.