Say what you want about Tolkien, but the fact remains that the world of Middle Earth that was his creation is one of the biggest, most detailed and elaborate fictional worlds ever conceived. Included in this world were whole languages, cultures with thousands of years of rich history, stories, poems and songs.

It is not surprising that the works of Tolkien have inspired a wealth of musical tribute, from Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle Earth concept album to Howard Shore's soundtrack for the recent movie trilogy. However, in this writer's humble opinion, there have been few better adaptations of Tolkien's work than the music of the black metal group Summoning.

As is often the case when reviewing an artist's whole catalogue, one must be careful not to generalise work which is varied and progressive, evolving and adapting as it goes. Suffice it to say on this topic that their debut offering (1995's Lugburz) can be broadly classed as black metal with the standard orchestral touches about it; this progressed through to their 2006 release Oath Bound, which is a far more symphonic offering.

A typical Summoning track will be (on average) around six minutes in length, and will borrow the majority of its lyrics directly from the text of Tolkien's work itself, be it prose, poem, or song. Many will also have audio clips from the BBC radio recording of The Lord of the Rings, and other such sources. For the most part (from 1999's Stronghold onwards), the guitars are such a background part of the music that one can easily forget that it's "technically" black metal playing. The symphonic/orchestral element becomes far more pronounced, and it's rare (in my admittedly limited experience at least) to find a sound that quite matches that produced by Summoning in their finest moments.

There are some free mp3s available on their website, and all are fragments, I can highly recommend the short version of "Land of the Dead" (direct link), which was released as an album sampler for Terrorizer Magazine's Fear Candy cover CD.

While their thunder is limited by their predominantly symphonic sound, and debauchery is barely seen in their catalogue, it is Bragi who wins the day; the sheer brilliance and beauty with which they adapt Tolkien's superb work is more than enough reason to lend this Austrian duo your ears.

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