SUMMONING – Do what you think is right to do

by Giuseppe Piscopo

Italian version

Close to the release date of their latest effort “With Doom We Come”, we had the chance to ask some questions to Silenius and Protector of Summoning, who told us something about the new album, their past and their trademark style that characterized the last 25 years. Enjoy!

Hi, this is Jacopo from Italian webzine MetalPit, thank you for your time! “With Doom We Come” marks the eighth chapter of your career: how would you describe this whole journey and what are, in your opinion, the main cornerstones that marked your evolution?

Silenius: First of all, it is now 25 years that we are in business with Summoning, and that’s of course something remarkable, which is not self-evident, being alive as a band after such a long time and beeng successful is quite unbelieveable when you compare it with nowadays hectic rhythms and with the knowledge that a lot of consumers nowadays tend to switch from one band to another in a more and more short time. Looking back to our career, I think there are three remarkable and important cornerstones that strengthened it: first of all “Minas Morgul”, which defined our sound after the more chaotic “Lugburz” release. Second, “Stronghold”, which made Summoning more commercial – with that album we lost a lot of old black metal fans of those times, but surprisingly gained a lot more new ones – mainly younger generation. And third, “Oath Bound” – on this album we released the most loved songs by the fans – mainly “Land of the Dead”, but also “Mirdautas Vras” with the black language lyrics. Both songs became trademarks of Summoning and represent what the band is all about.

Can you describe how the songwriting process of the album went?

S: Normally we start with the composing process, but this time it was a little bit different. We took all the  leftover riffs and musical fragments from the “Old Mornings Dawn” session, put it together and made something new out of it. That means we rearranged, cut out, built up new melodies on old riffs and so on. In the end, the new album turned out to be kind of a small brother of that album, and this was the aim for us. After the song process is finished, Protector usualy starts to mix the album, while I try to find fitting lyrics. In this case I did not only search for lyrics from Tolkien but also from different writers, which I can set in a Tolkien and Middle Earth connection in the end. Besides that, I also try to find fitting paintings for the cover and booklet and I also have a piece of paper aside where I write down words and phrases which later can be adapted as song or album titles.

Is there anything you appreciate the most about “With Doom We Come”? Something that happened during its creation, a song in particular or else…

S: No, not really. The only thing that comes to my mind is that this time we had a lot of troubles in finishing the album because the different ideas of how something should sound were often too contradictory.

Protector: Well, I would describe it in a bit different way. Silenius suddenly turned into a kind of pedant and wanted to create some total new sounds out of the normal sound we use. This led to a very long period of stagnation, and I had no idea what he actually wanted to reach. This led to a quite heavy frustration because I did not see any end of the production coming. This period lasted more than two years and was surely the worst years in the history of Summoning for me.

When did you start thinking about the new album?

S: Normally we always made one, two or three years break. In this time we usually concentrate on something else like our other projects and bands, but this time it was different. We started directly after the release of “Old Mornings Dawn”, and as we did not have to start from zero, as we already had a lot of riffs left, everything went further quickly, but because of the problems we had later it also took us five years to finish everything. But now everything is done, the baby is born and we are satisfied with the baby.

The latest records have seen long waiting periods between their releases. Is it difficult to gather the ideas for songs? Did you ever experience any periods lacking in ideas?

S: Of course, there are always periods where I have no ideas at all, and compared to the first three, four years of Summoning where we were youngsters with overwhelming creativity and nearly no critical distance to our own musical creations, the breaks between albums are really long nowadays. But on the other side I think this is also a good and positive thing because releasing albums each year would make everything boring and cloying. Summoning is nevery in a hurry, an album is finished when it is finished and not one day earlier. In this case we have full understanding from our record company and so we more or less can do what we want, as long as the sales are positive and the label is happy we do what we think is right to do.

Your first album was “Lugburz”, released back in March 1995, but after just a few months you wrote “Minas Morgul”, which is one of the first Atmospheric Black Metal albums. So, we can say that you have contributed to the birth of a genre, but what has driven you to a change of style of this entity?

S: The reason why we changed our style so drastically was not a planned one. It was just a consequence of many different things that happened in that time and where we, in consequence, had to make decisions. And all those decisions finally led to “Minas Morgul” and the newfound style. The first thing that happened was that we kicked out our drummer Trifixion because of personal reasons and, as a consequence, we decided not to look for a new drummer, but to play the drums on keyboard. By the way, Protector was a drummer, but he simply did not want to play real drums, so we came up with the idea of the keyboard drums. But of course his knowledge helped a lot, so the Summoning drumming sounded organic and not like a cheap drum computer. This also was an important point, with the years this way of drumming was accepted by the metal scene, which was not self-evident. The second thing that happened in our decision forming was that because of Trifixion’s hectical drumming we wanted to continue quite the opposite way. We made everything slow and primitive and we decided to compose on keyboard and not on bass and guitar, as we did on “Lugburz”. So the musical concept was more or less fixed. The lyrical change from more occult and satanic topics to complete Tolkien worship was also a kind of reaction. At that time, I was the singer of Abigor, which was far more prominent in those years. We simply wanted to make something different with Summoning and not a kind of Abigor II, so I came up with the Tolkien concept, because I thought this would fit perfectly to the now newly created slow, bombastic and athmospheric sounds of Summoning.

When and why did you decide to talk about Tolkien’s universe in your songs?

S: I said it in the question before. The real decision to make such concept came up with the shaping of “Minas Morgul”. In our demos and also in “Lugburz”, we already had Tolkien inspiration, but just among other things and topics. It simply was not a clear decision just to go in that direction, but with the birth of “Minas Morgul” the Middle Earth concept was fixed and the Summoning sound was set as you know it today and so you can say that “Minas Morgul” is a kind of unofficial debut of Summoning.

When you write songs, do you follow Tolkien’s writings and thoughts to the letter or do you try to give your personal interpretation and add something yours?

S: When we write songs we just concentrate on the music, on the composition itself. Lyrical thoughts play no role at all, this is something totally different, and we divide it as good we can. As we do not write lyrics on our own, the lyrical concept is always less important than the musical creation. I always stated that we see ourselves not even as musicians but as composers, this is what we like to do and this is what we can do best. Everything else is of minor importance. Of course for a fan this lyrical Tolkien fascination and the musical translation of the Middle Earth concept may be very important and after all we advertise our music and our style with our fascination for Tolkien. But as I said all this plays no role in the act of composing a Summoning song.

You two are both singers for the band: how do you decide who sings a particular song and what are the main differences between your voices that lead you to the choice?

S: Normally it is like in a bazar, both of us mention songs we want to sing: if both of us want to sing the same song, usually we try to deal. For example, offer the other another song in exchange for this one, or the other way round. In the end we always find a way to find together. Regularly I sing the songs which have a more aggressive touch and Protector usualy sings the songs which have a more filigree touch. Meanwhile, our voices can be differed a lot more than in former times because Protector works more and more with his special form of singing he has invented with “Stronghold”. This singing is a kind of mixture between harsh black metal vocals and singing real melodies, while my vocals are more the typical black metal style.

There are artists characterized by a sound very similar to yours, Caladan Brood on top everyone. Have you ever listened to them and, if so, do you appreciate them?

S: Of course we know them, and yes, they are the most known and prominent, one of those bands who follow our path and of course they have deserved their success. By the way, they also took part on a three CD tribute sampler which was released a year ago by a Polish label and they made a very good cover version of the song “Farewell”. But of course there are also some other bands on this compilation, that deserve success. Basically I always prefere bands who have their own identity, that means that if bands follow our path, they always should take the basic elements of our music, but then try to build up their own identity or bring those basic elements to a new evolution.

Year by year you had the opportunity to get in touch with the Austrian music scene (especially with the Black Metal one) in many ways. What changes has it endured over time?

S: First of all, I am not too much interested anymore in being part of a scene, I also do not go to concerts or clubs regularly. But what kept me updated is T.T. from Abigor. In the last years his appartment has become a kind of meeting place for bands and scene relevant people and also bands from other countries meet there when they are in Vienna, so this is mainly the only place where I get all my inside information. By the way, besides that I still do the vocals of Abigor again since some years and I also continue doing the vocals for one song of Amestigon – this is a kind of tradition. Some weeks ago I again did so and I think it’s not for a full length album, but for a split release.

You have always decided not to do live shows. What’s the reason for that? Do you think you might make an exception for some special occasions, especially since “concert-events” seem to be popular lately?

P: Summoning is simply not made for the stage, and we are a pure studio band. I wonder why people expect a band that they like when they listen to their music on CD should be automatically a good band on the stage; these are two total different abilities for me. One means being creative and getting good new melodies and rhythms for the album; the other means to be able to perform already created songs live on stage. The latter is a matter of the abilities on the instrument, and also a kind of ability of self presentation, which we are both totally missing. Apart from that, we are no perfect instrument players and also prefer to use our precious time for creating songs, instead of practicing old ones over and over again.

Last question, a peculiar one. If your songs were a soundtrack to a movie settled in Middle Earth, what movie would you imagine it to be? Something similar to the official Lord of the Rings movies or something different?

S: No, basically I imagine something similar to the official Peter Jackson movies. After all, the imagination of how the world of Tolkien shall look like is basically set by the painters Alan Lee and John Howe. They made most of the cover layouts of the books and so every fan has in mind their paintings when imagining Middle Earth. And as they also worked on the movie their ideas are transported and realised by Peter Jackson within the movie and I think that is the main reason why those movies worked so well.

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