Written for Exclaim! Media.
It wasn’t long ago that downtuning was a novelty. Fun in principle, but surely not to be taken seriously in the cold and stoic world of modern metal. This went double for bands with 7 or – heaven forbid – 8-stringed guitars. The closer you came to the dreaded “djent” sound, the more likely you’d find yourself sitting at the children’s table.
What a world for Italian multi-instrumentalist Gabriele Gramaglia (Summit) to enter, then: with bands like Washington’s Sumac and Toronto’s own Foreigns making not so much a splash as a low, bassy rumble in the community, it seems even the most stubborn ears are opening up to the added density.
Summit’s The Winds That Forestall Thy Return is the gust that keeps the momentum going. From the first discordant licks of opener “Hymn of the Forlorn Wayfarer”, the album does little to comfort. On first listen, it sounds detached and alien. The melodies are unfamiliar and otherworldly in a Pyramids sort of way, the dynamics in playing can be monotonous to the point of riff soup, and there’s no real indication of where Summit is going with any of this.
It’s only on consecutive listens that Winds… begins to show more of its own side. Once you’ve made space in your brain for the dizzying structures, the busy riffery of tracks like “Pale Moonlight Shadow” and “Pt. II: Anguish and Resignation” will feel like home; if that home was built in the middle of the battle at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.
“Aeons Pass, Memories Don’t Fade” is about as tender a send-off as one could expect from such a challenging record, its wavering ambience and spacious tom grooves a fitting, if anticlimactic closer.
As with any new project – especially solo endeavours – there are still a few kinks to work out. Some of the more repetitive elements could be streamlined, and certain sections lack the tension they’d need to remain interesting throughout the lengthier songs… although the same elements often work in the album’s favour.
It’ll keep your head nodding, though you’ll probably have to stop periodically to check what metre you’re in. (I, Voidhanger)