Review by Felix on May 10, 2019.
Ambient, epic or atmospheric - call it the way you want, this kind of black metal is usually not my domain. This makes Summoning almost unique in my personal metal cosmos. So, what, I just ignore the synthetic drumming and the fact this kind of music has nearly nothing in common with my understanding of metal. Okay, the vocals are not compatible with any kind of mainstream trivialities and the song patterns avoid the radio-friendly 3:30 minutes format. But many styles offer pretty long pieces of music and therefore only the vocals connect Summoning with the metallic scene - if we neglect a certain spirituality, a mindset which builds the foundation for their art. The passion of the Austrian duo shines through their compositions and as a result, the highlights reveal a fascinating depth.
"The Glory Disappears" is one of these songs where dedication goes hand in hand with encompassing melody lines. The aggressive vocals and the leisurely flowing melodies create an enormous density. No doubt, the glory does not disappear here, quite the opposite. Summoning's art shines in full glory. "Where Hope and Daylight Die" also stands out, but I am not quite sure in which way. The melody is majestic, but the female guest vocals are much too solemn. They cut the only connection to real metal from my point of view. Thus, it feels good that this appearance remains an isolated case. The next track, "The Rotting Horse on the Deadly Ground", illustrates that the combination of mighty melody lines and rasping male vocals works much better. Generally speaking, Summoning avoid experiments and maybe that's the reason why only "The Loud Music of the Sky" falls through the net due to its ironically very silent parts.
There can be no doubt that Stronghold is a typical Summoning output. A wonderful artwork ornaments endless harmony that stimulate the listener's fantasy. Despite the pretty synthetic style, medieval scenarios appear before my inner eye. Summoning's music is able to trigger emotions and that's the main thing whenever it comes to music. I would not say that every track can be deemed as brilliant, but the songs build a monolithic unit. Minor details leave room for improvement, for example they don't make good use of their "timpani" which remains expressionless. But please keep in mind that this is not my favourite style and maybe I just do not fully understand how these songs must be designed. I wish that some of them would have a more powerful approach, but that's probably contrary to this form of "metal". However, that may be, the album is well produced. It’s warm yet foggy sound develops the necessary density and depth. So, all in all, I really like to listen to Stronghold every now and then, even though its style lacks harshness and aggression. But that's just not what this music is about.
Rating: 7.2 out of 10
Review by Jack on October 25, 2001.
Synthesizers have rarely been used to this great an effect as they have been utilised on “Stronghold”, fortunately that they have been used proficiently otherwise the Summoning project would break down in its entirety. “Stronghold” is a completely synthesizer driven album as with all other Summoning albums.
Summoning is a culmination from the minds of Projector (Die Verbannten Kinder Eva's) and Silenius (Abigor) who look to be a particularly grim duo (see the album booklet), but can certainly compose some truly extraordinary music. Summoning’s work as far as I gather is based upon the works of one J.R.R Tolkien. Tolkien immediately conjures up thoughts of dwarves, goblins and other slightly built critters frolicking in the world of Middle Earth. And the neat thing is Summoning are close to being the perfect band to transport you there to dance with the little dwarves and goblins.
Song lengths typically range from around 6:30 to about 10:00 in time (barring ‘Rhun’, which clocks in at 3:25)... so expect a nice momentous thoroughfare in the tracks on “Stronghold”. The music as I stated before is a lovely blend of synthesizers, gargled black vocals and more synthesizers. I think the strongest aspect of this album is the ability to hold its listener for each subsequent track, there is no weak track on “Stronghold”.
The weakest part of “Stronghold” is the ridiculous titles given to tracks on it. ‘Like Some Snow-White Marble Eyes’ and ’The Rotting Horse on the Deadly Ground’ are indicative examples of these silliness in the usage of the English language and the horrors it is sometimes subjected to, especially by black metal bands.
All things considered though “Stronghold” is a worthy addition to any metal fan’s collection.
Bottom Line: Synthesizer driven black/dark metal that applies itself to Tolkien’s fanatsy world; Middle Earth. Interesting and mammoth, “Stronghold” is tribulation to listen to at first but becomes easier after time to settle in with.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10