Summoning - _Oath Bound_
(Napalm Records, 2006)
by: James Montague (
Long after Hollywood's attention turned away from Tolkien and shifted back to more worldly issues like racism, global terrorism and gay cowboys, the old firm of Silenius and Protector have stuck to their guns and released a sixth full-length orgy of Midgardian magic. Once again Napalm Records have done their best to dampen my interest, promising us more of the same but with slightly more guitar and a song written entirely in the language of the Orcs -- oh, how my nerd-gimmick alarm went off on that one! But I should not have been so cynical, as "Mirdautas Vras" is one of the finest individual songs in the Summoning catalogue, and _Oath Bound_ the first truly essential album I've heard in 2006.First things first: if you are already a fan, you will adore this latest offering. The inspirational intro track, the military pomp, the thunderous drums, the dreamy, trancelike melodies -- they're all there and all in fine form. But there are certain additional treats in store for those like me, who've voraciously devoured the band's work for the last decade. Some are minor tidbits -- for example, this time Silenius performs the lion's share of lead vocals, his acrid shrieks always striking me as more appropriate in this otherworldly context than Protector's earthly cries. On the other hand, the aforementioned "Mirdautas Vras" is a rather more unique feature, and not just because of its orcish lyrics. Perhaps borrowing from the duo's various darkwave and industrial projects, the song is a collage of underground war machines rolling and groaning, the terrifying roar of orcs serving as chorus to Silenius's venomous rallying call. And yet despite the hideous evil at work, a stunningly beautiful brass melody sings of an inner nobility and serenity in times of chaos and war. As is Summoning's gift, the juxtaposition of these conflicting moods is executed perfectly, the result being pure magic.After being completely laid out for the count by the third track, it's almost difficult to concentrate on the rest, especially since the following song, "Might and Power", is ironically one of the feeblest I've heard from the band. Here we see the return of the clean vocals from _Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame_, but this time it just doesn't work. This glitch is soon corrected, as the remainder of the album is magnificent. The tone is often more serene than we're used to from the band, but the textures are rich and multi-layered, the piano melodies sublime, and the intermittent guitar-led climaxes often reach _Stronghold_ levels of intensity and grandeur.It could be argued that _Oath Bound_ is more of the same from Summoning, which for many of us is more than enough. However, the band is still tuning their craft in subtle yet brilliant ways, giving reviewers plenty of food for thought and giving listeners yet another excuse to go find an isolated mountainside, strap on the headphones, watch the sun set, and escape the world below.
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