The Winds That Forestall Thy Return is the mostly instrumental (mostly) debut full length from Summit, the latest project of Gabriele Gramaglia (The Clearing Path), and to call it 36 very densely packed minutes is a gross understatement. An attentive ear will find a ludicrous amount of ideas, layers, influences, instruments, and just sounds smacked all over this thing, to the point that it is both overwhelming and deeply exciting once you really start digging into it.
Because there’s no real way to put it simply, here it is: Summit is some combination of progressive rock, sludge, post rock, black metal, noise, death metal, fusion, ambient, cinematic soundscape, and doom. It is deeply atmospheric, and yet often dry in tone; instrumentally quite active, and yet never approaching self-indulgence. The list of influences is legion, and includes names as heralded and varying as Neurosis, Gorguts, Krallice (Nicholas McMaster even makes an appearance), Explosions in the Sky, and Brian Eno, all without any direct plagiarism.
However, much of this will only come through to those listening with that attentive, obsessed ear (hi). Like the first of those influences, Summit’s broader compositions feature broad dynamics that come across with a deliberate pace, executed through variations in instrumental busyness in addition to the typical loud/dark contrasts and a ton of arpeggios. Opener “Hymn of the Forlorn Wayfarer” starts all blunt and steely to achieve its atmosphere through notes as opposed to a ton of reverb, inserts some quick bursts of noisy death-tinged metal, goes into layered rocking territory, and eventually spends a few minutes building an Isis-like wave of dynamics. It’s a lot to digest on paper, and it’s tempting to get distracted by all of the details, but the broader compositional movements work just as well as every clinically executed riff or drum pattern.
And that’s pretty much the case for the whole album, even if no two tracks sound exactly the same. “Pale Moonlight Shadow” starts a bit more doom/sludge (drums so slow you can picture the drummer’s arms suspended in air), touches on blackgaze terrain (blasty, but not quite that dreamy), and then goes big for a dramatic finish. The two-part title track starts with an extended ambient section that goes on a touch too long (one of the album’s only truly notable flaws), and then kicks in with more great layering and some sort of… what, symphonic Gorguts-Neurosis hybrid? Sure. That works. Symphonic Neurguts. Whatever, it rules.
The trippy, banjo-or-dulcimer-or-something-laced “Aeons Pass, Memories Don’t Fade” ends the album before the listener has time to adjust. It’s a few complex, monster tracks a couple “relaaaaaax” moments. Which might be the only that will hold back The Winds That Forestall Thy Return for certain listeners: It’s just unusual. Gloriously unusual, at most times, but unusual nonetheless. Because it has an odd structure, and because the obvious influences aren’t necessarily referenced in the most obvious ways, it’ll be a tough nut to crack for some.
But – and I hate myself for doing this because it indirectly takes credit away from the musicians – that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect from I, Voidhanger Records. The label has a knack for uncovering artists and albums that are different in a different way, if that makes sense. And after all of my name dropping and nonsensical ramblings above, that’s really how one can describe Summit and The Winds That Forestall Thy Return: different in a different way. Thank god for that, right?