Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Ideologically driven bands like Summoning tend to have discographies that progress toward a logical conclusion. The ideas that drive the artists develop along with the music until they are finally suited for each other. At this juncture, great albums are made. This happened for Summoning in 2001, with Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame, which matched an unearthly and alienating guitar tone with marching drum beats, intelligent riffing and unabashedly Tolkien obsessed lyrics. Five years later, Oath Bound plays like a slightly disappointing, but still lovingly crafted epilogue to the triumphantMortal Heroes.
Where Oath Bound fails in opposition to Mortal Heroes is simply in its lack of melody and rhythmic drive. The later sounded like a truly ambitious band trying to summon Tolkien’s landscapes with riff-centric and melodic black metal. Oath Bound sounds like a conventional sword and shield film soundtrack. It’s meticulously crafted and would certainly make a fine companion to the Lord of the Rings feature, but falls short as an album composed of focused metal songs. For example, compare the power of the confidently marching “South Away” on Mortal Heroes, to Oath Bound‘s “Mirduatas Vras” which aimlessly loops the sound of lowering trow-bridges, clashing swords and resounding trumpets over a cyclic synth line. Before, such samples were merely accompaniment to riff driven and inspired black metal. Now, they dominate the whole show and the album really suffers as a result. There are exceptions that account for bright spots on this album. “Might And Glory” is more guitar oriented than other tracks and sounds more like a song than anything else on Oath Bound. It also features the almost Summoning patented wall-of-sound tremolo riffing in the background. The following track, “Northward,” makes for a late album hot streak, transitioning from unassuming arpeggio chord riffing, to the kind of grandiose, strident orchestration that Summoning always succeed with. But, the album creeps into the doldrums again with its final two, overlong songs.
Oath Bound may serve as an interesting companion piece to whatever medieval movie you’re digging currently, but as a metal album – and especially as a Summoning album – it leaves me feeling severely let down. I can’t fault the band on their attention to detail, as the production is very professional and this sounds as good as any soundtrack produced by a major studio. However, it will not challenge or move listeners with the same power as Summoning’s back catalog.