Thursday, January 4, 2018

Album Review: Summoning - With Doom We Come

As the new year opens, winter is making sure we get off to as depressing a start as possible, to extinguish the hope that a new year might mean now possibilities. The bitter cold is in full force, with the temperatures where I am locked well, well below the freezing point. That wretched forecast befits Summoning, who are here to give their frosty take on epic black metal, in the guise of an album that feels like it will stretch on as long as winter itself. As someone who is not a black metal fan, the thought of sitting down to a lengthy album featuring multiple ten minte epics of screeching coldness is like a nightmare. So why am I doing it? For one thing, the beginning of the year does not offer a panapoly of choices to review, but also because I want to test whether black metal has a better chance of succeeding with me in these conditions.

The album gets off to a bizarre start in the form of "Tar-Calion", which spends seven minutes rotating through sounds without ever showing its purpose as a song. There are buildups of horns, classical guitar segues, spoken word segments, and buzzing guitars that sound like the practice amp I got along with my first real electric. I know black metal is about being ugly, but for the life of me I can't understand the appeal of recording the guitars in such low fidelity that you can't make out the individual notes. It does fit in as the sonic equivalent of a white-out, but neither one of those phenomenon are something you actually want to go through.

The other big issue is that Summoning's style is easy to lose focus while listening to, as the guitars drone through fuzzy chords throughout far too much of the album, rarely playing anything approaching a riff. The differentiation from song to song is left to the horns and other adornments, which makes the album feel like a single hour-long block of noise.

I know that Summoning are one of the bigger names in this realm of black metal, but that doesn't change my opinion of what I'm listening to. "With Doom We Come" is an album that fails across the entire spectrum. Sonically, it sounds awful. That's to be expected, but it still holds true. The writing is also sub-par, with little imperative shown by any of the tracks. There are no moments, no riffs or motifs, that stand out as the creative spark behind the track. Everything is bland and tepid, with not a single moment that is memorable as a great idea. Then there's the title, which is also a failure. Doom is something that, while I don't love it, I do understand. This album has no doom. Yes, it's rather slow and foreboding, but it's in the sense of watching the snow pile up, knowing you have to go out and shovel it. There is nothing sinister, evil, or emotional about these songs at all.

I've never enjoyed black metal, but every now and again I give it another shot to see if I have changed enough to appreciate it. It's never happened, and it hasn't here either. Summoning might make a lot of people happy with this album, but they won't be fans of music, because little of what I heard here fits my definition of the format. Songs need to have a point, and be performed and transmitted in a way that gets that point across. Summoning doesn't do any of that. They play lengthy passages of noise, disguised as grandeur. It's not. It's just exhausting.

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