The sounds of Middle Earth will never be forgotten and will reverberate with the clamour of heroes around the great halls forevermore. Well they will if Protector and Silenius have their way and despite being quiet for nearly 5 long years since ‘Old Morning’s Dawn’ extreme music’s biggest Tolkien documentarians Summoning are back again. I have a bit of insight into the album having interviewed the pair elsewhere and it’s been a somewhat hazardous road to get where we are today with disagreements between the duo delaying things a little but here we are with eight new numbers, painstakingly researched and epic in scope. Come inside and out of the cold, what stories they have to tell us.

Drums boom and roll with dramatic timpani effects as we are led into the first ode ‘Tar-Calion’ a regal tale about Ar-Pharazon, the last king of the Numenor. Spoken words call for us to kneel before our conqueror and we are swept into a grandiose and at times mournful sound that could only really belong to one band. It’s rich with melody led by fuzzy guitar and accompanied by a wealth of sounds from harps, pipes and other symphonic elements. The ties to it and classical music of old are apparent and it sounds completely natural in composition and flow. The depths of ‘Silvertine’ the mountain where Gandalf fought the Balrog are explored and despite the danger it’s a magical place. Vocals are more pronounced, rasping like a weathered wizard and there’s a heroic sense of grandeur from the melody expanded by backing choral work and that mystical twang of the harp. You can easily research and throw yourself into the mythos of the songs such as ‘Carcharoth’ about a mighty wolf, no doubt lyrics and explanations will be provided in the finished copy of the album. Without it you have no problems being Summoned to magical places full of mystery and intrigue as the rich melodies wrap themselves around you and the hoary vocals narrate. Just close your eyes and there’s plenty of time to lose yourself with tracks reaching anything up to 11 minutes in length. Caught in the sultry sway of ‘Herumor’ with backing choral parts rising and exotic sounds to feast on you really are transported far away from humdrum existence and into another world.

The second side starts with a short instrumental ‘Barrow-Downs’ a reedy pipe parps away like a call into battle and symphonic parts are stirring, evocative and full of drama. It’s a prelude to ‘Night Fell Behind’ a slower chilly refrain with a wonderful melody which totally spellbinds and entrances. The Arabic / Turkish darbuka one of the few instruments actually played by Protector apparently (the majority of sounds coming from a large orchestral sound archive) is used to great effect giving the vision a bit of a ‘World Music’ flavour even. Apparently ‘Mirklands’ takes us into the shadowy realms of the dead so prepare to be spooked. The caress of these phantoms although sending a definite shiver down the spine is quite gentle musically. It will definitely haunt and memories of it will linger long after played. The doom like odyssey of the title-track is left to finish this massive chapter but with it comes a massive sense of jubilation due to the heroic vocal performance which is guaranteed to have you joining in and chanting along.

I have listened to this album far too many times for my own good completely absorbing it every step of the way and coming back to finally sit down and review it feels like an old friend much the same way previous albums from Summoning do. We can forgive them entirely for taking their time as we can for never putting their unique vision into the live arena. Even if we don’t hear from them for another half a decade this will bridge any gap and could well be a classic album of the future. Listen, love and absorb, the year is only just borne but you will be hard pressed to find a more enriching journey to partake during it.

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)