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Summoning - Interview #2

Interview with: Silenius
Conducted by: T.V.

The guardians of Middle-earth Summoning are back with a new album, their eighth full-length, another release of epic musical proportions named With Doom We Come. The Austrian duo took five years after their absolute masterpiece Old Mornings Dawn to serve us with another greatness that simply has no rivals in the field of atmospheric/ambient black metal, and it's like this since they released their debut album named Lugburz back in 1995. Summoning is more than just a normal band, it's a cult, a living legend, a monument of majestical art with many evergreen releases that offer continuously refined soundscapes. Silenius and Protector have turned over a new leaf in their bottomless saga with With Doom We Come, maybe their most ambient and mystical release until now. It's an album that in many ways reminds to its predecessor, but yet it offers many new things. With Doom We Come is sublime and majestic, a new step for a band which formed back in 1993, another one with lyrics based on J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings and mythology. Sagas and myths culled from J.R.R. Tolkien`s vast universe are the black blood that courses through Summoning`s veins since the beginning and With Doom We Come is simply the ultimate soundtrack to a fantastic journey. Summoning started as a traditional black metal band, but have with some epic turns evolved into one of of a kind band that makes unique epic atmospheric black metal. Summoning is one of the most influential bands around and got many followers and imitators throughout the years, but no one can match them. I talked with one half of Summoning, Silenius, about the new album, compositions, lyrics, artwork, problems that were going on, he cleared up the talkings around their political views and many other interesting things.

T.V.: Congratulations on a new masterpiece! With Doom We Come is another stunning piece of art made by Summoning and I love it. I believe that you must be very satisfied with the final output?
: Thanks for your kind words. For us, the realisation of this album maybe was the most difficult one in our history, because of all the struggles we had about the musical direction it should go and how it should sound. The consequence of all those troubles had been a kind of frustration and lack of motivation and the band nearly broke on this. But luckily we found a way out of this black hole and in the end we got back on the track, so of course, it was a big relief for us when the album was finished at last. We knew that this time we had just two possibilities: come together again and finish the album, or finishing the band and go different ways. Luckily we succeeded at last. The album is of course not our best one, but it was a necessary cornerstone in our history to mark our survival as a band.
T.V.: Oddly enough you said similar things in our previous interview that we did when you released Old Mornings Dawn, that the band almost broke up back then and somehow that you found some inspiration to compose again. Does it seem that this is some kind of regular thing in between your albums?
Silenius: No, the situation was quite different. In the years between Oath Bound and Old Mornings Dawn I simply lost my interest in Summoning. Kreuzweg Ost was far more important for me but, but most of all my alcohol problem made me unproductive. As far as I can remember I did not have too much contact with Protector and I'm sure this would have gone for some more years, but in the end, the heart attack changed everything. My mind became clear again and Summoning became important again. This time we really had big struggles within the work of creating a new album, because of heavy disagreements about the sound and musical directions. Before Summoning was just inactive...
T.V.: Even if With Doom We Come comes out nearly five years after its predecessor, Old Mornings Dawn, I didn't expect an album from Summoning coming already. For the previous one, you needed eight long years. What was different now in this regard?
Silenius: I think that the new album should be seen as a kind of second part of a little brother to Old Mornings Dawn. The situation was similar to Nightshade Forests which was also seen as a kind of appendix to Dol Guldur. That means that we did not start from point zero but already had some riffs, drum patterns, guitar lines and even some more worked out but unfinished songs left from the Old Mornings Dawn session. To start the work, we put everything together on a heap and look at what we could do out of it. Naturally in the beginning it was easy to add melody lines, rearrange song structures and make something new out of old fragments. In the end, all of the new songs were composed within two years. The real struggles began when we defined the sounds for different melodies and later when Protector mixed the album. The basic disagreement was that I wanted to make more experiments in sounds which Protector didn't want too much. And as I wasn't sure in which direction everything should go the work became headless with the time. I was not really able to express my visions and Protector was not really willing making experiments to see what could work and so a creative direction was missing for some years. It was kind of dead-end road where we have driven. Finally, we made drastic steps. First, we made a break for some weeks to get our heads free and then started again with new motivation and the will to finish this album. With this goal ahead everything became focused again and With Doom We Come to find its birth finally.
T.V.: But you made some experiments in the end, especially the first song on the album, "Tar-Calion" is something that we haven't heard before from Summoning...
Silenius: I wanted to integrate more instrumental songs again as we did on Minas Morgul or Lost Tales. As a fan of Burzum, I always liked it that this band can be divided into the metal side and the ambient side. I always wanted to do something similar with Summoning, and never understood why so many fans do not consider instrumental or ambient songs as something equal to metal songs. For me, it is just another side of the same and brings more variety into the music. So this time we have three instrumental songs including the bonus disc. The tradition of opening the album with an intro was not cut, we just made a full intro song out of it.
T.V.: After giving it several spins I feel it in some terms quite similar to your previous album, especially soundwise. But still, like each one of your albums, it's pretty different from it. I can sense much more gloom and wistful atmospheres in it. Tell me, how would you compare With Doom We Come with Old Mornings Dawn?
Silenius: Yes, it's more gloomy and maybe less bombastic and heroic. I say maybe because all the horn and trumpet sections that make our songs epic are there, but this time not mixed in the forefront as usually but on an equal level with other instruments. The result is a more cleared up and less playful sound. In some ways, a lot of melodies are shorter this time what makes the songs sound more reduced and a bit easier to get into, but not all of them: "Silvertine" and the title track are for sure exceptions in this formula. As it should be a follow up to Old Mornings Dawn as explained before, of course, the sound is similar. And as we worked with a lot of sound samples, we also brought more of this typical Cold Meat Industry dark ambience into our songs, but all of this was not a masterplan for us, it just happened.
T.V.: Yes, this dark ambience is really strongly present and adds kind of a special dimension to the album. Are you a fan of this old school dark ambient things released back then by Cold Meat Industry? And what do you think about the recent growth of dark ambient scene? Any new acts that you find interesting inside this genre?
Silenius: I was and still am a fan of this kind of music. I was socialised by the music of Cold Meat Industry in the beginning. In the early nineties, this label had a close connection to the black metal scene, mostly because it was common for many bands to have a side project on that label or at least coming from the metal scene, just like Mortiis, Aghast, Penitent, Valefor, Proscriptor, Ildfrost and so on. Later I explored similar labels like Cold Spring, Tesco Organisation or Steinklang. Meanwhile, some labels just specialised on dark ambient like Cyclic Law, Cryo Chamber or the mighty Loki Foundation. Basically, all these three labels have high-quality releases, but if I have to mention one project, I would choose Lamia Vox, a female-fronted project from Russia. Besides the usual ambient layers and drones, there are also great melodies and rhythms woven into the music, which makes this project outstanding.

T.V.: Back to With Doom We Come... The song "Silvertine" has a certain vibe and atmosphere very similar to "Caradhras" from Old Mornings Dawn. Is there really some connection between these two songs?
Silenius: Not really because this mountain concept was not planned in the beginning. Originally this song should be the second part of "Tar-Calion" when his armada was sailing against the land of the Valar, but the original text did not fit to the rhythm of that song, so I decided to change the topic. The song "Silvertine" was a coincidental product.
T.V.: Like every album of yours so far also this one is thematically centred around J.R.R. Tolkien`s vast universe. What are the main themes that influenced the lyrics this time?
Silenius: First of all I have to state that the new album is not a concept album, that means that each song has its own little stories to tell. Originally there was the plan that the first two songs tell one story, namely that of Ar-Pharazon and his war against the Valar, but then I realized that the supposed lyrics for the second song did not fit to the music in terms of structure and rhythm and so like I explained in the previous question, the song got a different topic. "Tar-Calion" is another name for Ar-Pharazon as you mentioned. He was the last king of the Numenor who, blended by Sauron, built a great fleet and sailed against the land of the Valar. The second song, "Silvertine", tells from this mountain, where once Gandalf fought his final battle against the Balrog. "Carcharoth" was the greatest and most powerful wolf in the service of Morgoth and he guarded the gates of Angband. He bit off the hand of Beren with the Silmaril within and became crazed with pain. The next song "Herumor" tells a story of a less known character. He was a black Numenor who rose to power among the Haradrim and served Sauron in the end. The following instrumental refers to a serial of low hills east of the Shire. During the second and third age, the hills were haunted by the Barrow-Wights sent by the Witch King, so no man could settle there. "Night Fell Behind" is about self-sacrifice and heroism while "Mirklands" draws the listener into a shadowland where the land of the living collides with the land of the dead. The final title song tells from a time of the first age when Morgoth sets feet to Middle Earth and built up his empire.
T.V.: Thank you for explaining the meaning of the songs. Now, With Doom We Come is a pretty strong title. What can you tell me about it? How did you come up with it?
Silenius: Usually when Protector is busy on mixing the album, I collect poems for the lyrical concept, search for fitting paintings that we can use for the booklet and I always have a piece of paper aside on which I write words and phrases that I could use for song titles or the album title. In the end, I had around fifty titles collected, most of them were used as song titles, but I still had no fitting album title. For a long period, it seemed that the album will be called Conquest, but somehow I was not satisfied with the title. It reminded me too much on the movie 'Conquest Of Paradise' and the song of Vangelis. So I continued my search and one day I came upon this song of the Ents marching against Isengard. I liked this catchy phrase and so we took it as the title, but this time of course connected to the band and connected to Morgoth in the title song. Of course, there is also a sidekick to the style doom metal. We aren't, of course, playing doom metal, but our music is also quite slow, so it is not a complete misdirection.
T.V.: Did you took the same compositional and recording process as on your previous album or were the things different this time?
Silenius: The compositional process was as I explained before and the recording process was the usual way as always. Protector oriented a lot on Old Mornings Dawn to get a similar sound. The equipment was also the same as always. Protector just had to buy a new guitar, while on the previous releases he just borrowed guitars from friends, but meanwhile, as no one wanted to lend him a guitar anymore he had to buy one on his own.
T.V.: I can sense that orchestral arrangements, synths and other majestic sounds are a bit more fronted, while raw guitars are put a bit more in the background...
Silenius: As far as I know Protector tried to balance the keyboards and guitars quite equal. The difference maybe is that this time the leading melodies are not in the forefront anymore, but everything is on a quite same level. This makes the sound a bit different this time. I'm not sure if we will continue with that on future releases but the decision was set for this time.
T.V.: Also there's more variety in vocals, and as well there are many vocal choirs used to make an outstanding, sometimes almost bombastic atmosphere. Was this your intention from the beginning?
Silenius: Protector focused on his vocal style. He did this mixture between singing melodies and screaming since the song "Long Lost To Where No Pathways Go" from the Stronghold album. When the teaser for the new album was released a lot of fans seemed to be irritated by that and thought this singing style is new, but it was not. My vocals sound a bit deeper than usual. In the time when the album was still in the making, I had to do the vocals for the new Abigor album. There I have a totally different vocal style and seemed that later I had some troubles to find my way back into the Summoning vocal style. First I tried it to sound like a mixture between both styles, but this did not work. Later I got back to my old style but in the end, the vocals sounded a bit deeper as planed and up and then this guttural singing was shining through, like for example in the refrain of "Mirklands".
T.V.: The album seems to be divided into two parts by the instrumental interlude "Barrow-Downs". Is there something more about this, was your intention to split it into two parts or am I just imagining things?
Silenius: No, not at all. As I explained in an answer above I just wanted to have more instrumental tracks on the album to bring more variety into the music.
T.V.: The fantastic front cover artwork is also very unique, but on it, I can find elements that you used before on front covers for Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, Dol Guldur and on EP Lost Tales. Is this just a coincidence or is there something more behind all this?
Silenius: No, there is no deeper meaning behind it. I just wanted a more fantasy-based cover again just for the variety. The similarity to older cover layouts is no problem. It shall be in the Summoning style like our music and besides that, we also used a lot of the typical landscape paintings for the booklet and the bonus CD. All paintings were done by different old painters from the romantic epoche except the cover frame which was done by the Russian dark fantasy painter Yaroslav Gerzhedovich. The original picture within the frame was replaced by a dragon painting by Georg Janny. The back cover of the bonus disc was painted by Erika Szucs who also did some backing vocals on the choirs in "Herumor" and the title song.
T.V.: Every single album of Summoning has that kind of an effect that takes the listener on a sonic journey. Tell me if you have this in mind while you are in the phase of compositions?
Silenius: Of course this effect is a very important part of a typical Summoning song and a puzzle stone of the typical formula that makes a Summoning song work in the right way. But this effect has a lot to do with the final sound and the interaction of different melodies and song structures. It has nothing to do with the basic composing.
T.V.: I know that you don't like the term "epic" to describe your music, but still, on With Doom We Come there are some pretty epic songs and beside Dol Guldur is the only album with so many songs that exceed 10 minutes, while others are very close to that. Anything to say in this regard?
Silenius: Basically it is not part of our concept to make long songs, or let's say it is not planed. The lengths just happen naturally as a result of our composing style. Usually, our melody lines are long before they repeat and we take our time to build up a song, layer by layer. All this takes time, and so the length turns out naturally. Building up atmospheres and this typical trance-like mood needs time and can not be realized within a few minutes.
T.V.: The last song, "With Doom I Come", has a very strange production, at least the one which came with promotional material and the digital version on Bandcamp as well. It sounds very raw and has some kind of an unpolished demo sound that differs from the rest on the album. Is this just a thing on streaming platforms or is the same sound also on physical editions? If so, why have you decided to do it this way?
Silenius: Normally we should have done different mixing versions not only for the vinyl but also for the streaming release. But we did not as Protector has too less experience with that. Maybe next time we ask T.T. of Abigor, at least he has that needed experience of how to make a fitting vinyl sound, or at least to improve it.
T.V.: You didn't use any kind of a pompous promotional advertisement before the release of the album, there were no songs available to stream before the release, except for the title track on Bandcamp. We who work in the media received just scarce information. Was this your decision, because Napalm Records usually puts a lot of effort in promoting the albums before the official release?
Silenius: Usually we do not interfere too much into the promotional work of Napalm Records. The only thing that was important for us, was to make some teasers as we did on Old Mornings Dawn and to have a professional band Facebook site, where we can post important news. The old Facebook site did not belong to us, and it became more and more difficult to post there, but Napalm Records helped us to find a solution. On the other side, we refused some things that bands usually have to do when it comes to promoting an album. First, we don't want to make video clips: they would be too expensive for 10 minutes songs, or too boring when they are done cheaply and I think this would only count when we would be a touring band. Second, we refused to make unboxing videos or video album presentations by talking about the album in front of a camera. This kind of things simply does not fit us and our concept. Everything else was just decided by Napalm Records, especially in terms of streaming which does not interest us too much.
T.V.: I know that you said that Summoning will never play live and I know what your answer will be, but still, things might change through the years... Have you maybe considered now to bring Summoning on stage?
Silenius: No, because that simply would make no sense, even if we want to play live. As we never practice we, of course, have not improved on our instruments. We have improved as composers but not as musicians. So we simply are not skilled enough for live shows and of course, there is still no interest in doing so.
T.V.: I knew exactly what you'll say, even if that would be really a huge thing. You mentioned it before that you recorded vocals for the last Abigor album, Höllenzwang (Chronicles Of Perdition), which was just released a few days ago. Pretty different stuff if compared to Summoning and I wonder how are you satisfied with it?
Silenius: Yes, the music of Abigor is totally different from Summoning. While repetition is a basic element of Summoning, Abigor's riffing rarely repeats and that's just one point of a long line of differences. In contrary to old Abigor releases I try to make individual vocals over their music which have less in common with my vocals in Summoning, but exactly that is the point that makes my work for Abigor interesting. otherwise, I do not influence their music and presentation. I'm just doing my job there, and the same goes for Amestigon. There it is a kind of tradition to sing one song for each release.
T.V.: Even though you are the main vocalist in Abigor you are still considered only as a session and not a full member. Why so? Beside vocal duties, do you have any other role in Abigor?
Silenius: In the beginning, it was planned just to be session vocalist for one or two releases, but T.T. seems to like my new vocal style so much that he doesn't want to let me go again. And to make my decision easier to stay he collected so many compromising photos of me over the last 15 years that I simply had to stay in Abigor.
T.V.: And what about your martial industrial project Kreuzweg Ost that you mentioned before? I haven't noticed any activity for a long time. You even deleted the old Facebook page, but I see a new one there, even if it's empty?
Silenius: The old Facebook page was run by Oliver. Some years ago he emigrated to England and my contact to him broke, same goes for Ronald to whom I also have no contact anymore. Indeed, there have not been any activities for a long time by now but I want to make at least one more album for this project sometime in the future. But all in all, I have no concrete plans by now.
T.V.: For many years you didn't say anything about your political views, but recently I was surprised that your bandmate Protector put it straight that you are anti-fascist oriented. Can you tell me more about your point of view and what can you tell me about how do you see recent things going on in the world and society of today?
Silenius: About our political views there have been some misunderstandings circulating. To make it short: while Protector has very left-wing opinions about politics I tend to be conservative right-wing. Because of these polar positions Summoning never can speak with one tongue and for a long time, it was not necessary. We positioned Summoning always as an unpolitical band with a strong Tolkien worshipping identity. Some years ago Protector did a long statement because our music was heavily used for nazi propaganda on YouTube. What annoyed me in that time was that he never included me in making this statement together. The result surely would have been less excited and dissolute, but the real problems began when Protector answered to several political questions in an American magazine called Noisey. I warned him to stay diplomatic and not to polarize too much but unfortunately, the contrary happened. Now everyone seems to think Summoning is a far left-winged political motivated band which simply is not true and of course, all the follow-up interviews included questions about our political opinion formation. I do not want to share my political views with the world and I believe that whatever I would say it would just polarize. As Summoning has no political agenda there is simply no need in doing so. Of course, Protector has the right to see this differently and say what he wants, but people shall know that his beliefs are not mine.
T.V.: Thank you for clearing this up, I was already afraid that Summoning is kind of an extreme left-winged band. I remember asking you the last time about very popular George R.R. Martin and TV series 'Game Of Thrones'. At that time you still haven't seen it, but you bought DVDs. I suppose that you have watched the series by now and that you have made up your opinion about it?
Silenius: I have not read the books but yes, meanwhile I have seen all the seasons except the unfinished last one. And of course, they are really really great. The success is fully deserved, and I think the complexity of the world can match with Tolkien in many ways. But I think the basic reason for the success is the genuine shaping of characters, who can tend from good to bad and back again and all colours in between just within one character. This and the fact that everyone can die easily makes it so realistic and exciting and not just the fantasy elements. This makes it totally different to for example 'Lord Of The Rings' and by the way, the way how the title melody is composed reminds me a lot to our way of composing.
T.V.: Do you plan to release any additional songs or bonuses to With Doom We Come, as you did it for Old Mornings Dawn?
Silenius: Yes, there are two boxsets (CD/LP) limited to 1000 copies each. Among other things, both sets contain two bonus tracks presented on their own CD/10inch vinyl. The CD box set is already sold out, but there are around 100 copies left of the LP set.
T.V.: What comes next for Summoning? Will, there be again just a lot of silence until you prepare your next album, or can we expect some surprises?
Silenius: It will take a long time until the next full-length album will be released, but we plan a small release with two or three new songs just released on vinyl in a limited edition during the next two or three years. This shall help us to come together again in working out songs together without having the stress of a full-length release.
T.V.: Thank you very much for your time and great answers. I think that you made clear many things around With Doom We Come and several other things. What would you like to say at the end of this interview?
Silenius: Thank you very much for the interview, and as always in the end: up the hammers to our fans worldwide...

Summoning links: Facebook, Bandcamp, Napalm Records

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