The works of J.R.R. Tolkien have long served as inspiration for heavy music, from Led Zeppelin to Amon Amarth. Austria’s black metallers Summoning have a discography almost entirely dedicated to Tolkien’s works of fantasy, and the group’s eighth studio album With Doom We Come is no different, spanning the history of Middle-earth from The Silmarillion to The Return of the King.
Musically, With Doom We Come is much in the style the band first established with 1995’s Minas Morgul: tortured cries, epic and folk melodies, atmospheric synths, programmed tribal drums, and evocative bits of spoken word. While the sound of early releases like Minas Morgul can come across sterile, allowing the music to fade into the background, With Doom We Come features a dynamic range of sounds and fuller production that command more attention and make me want to dive into my Tolkien library.
And so I have. What follows is a brief track-by-track commentary on the subject matter of With Doom We Come.
Tar-Calion, more commonly known as Ar-Pharazôn, was the last king of Númenor, a kingdom of Men in the First Age. Proud and warlike, he even made Sauron his prisoner. But then, having fallen under Sauron’s evil spell, he sailed west to attack the angelic Valar and seize everlasting life for himself. For this, Eru — God, basically — cast Númenor into the sea and Ar-Pharazôn perished. The survivors went on to establish the lines of kings in Middle-earth into whose numbers Aragorn would be crowned in The Return of the King.
Silvertine, also known as Zirakzigil and Celebdil, is one of the Mountains of Moria. Durin’s Tower stands on its peak, and beneath lie the mines of Khazad-Dûm, where Dwarves accidentally released the Balrog. Later, Orcs would also infest the mines and clash with Frodo’s party in The Fellowship of the Ring. When Gandalf returns in The Two Towers, he recounts his battle against the Balrog, which culminated atop Zirakzigil.
Carcharoth is a werewolf created by the evil lord Morgoth to defend him against Beren’s quest to steal a Silmaril jewel from his crown and thereby win permission from Lúthien’s father to take her hand in marriage. One of the key chapters in The Silmarillion, “Beren and Lúthien” is a beautiful tale of love and heroism, but the lyrics to this song focus on the dread beast who confronts them:
Upon the threshold, watchful, dire,
His eyes new-kindled with dull fire,
His teeth were bare, his tongue aflame,
Aroused, he watched, the no one came
Herumor receives scant mention in Tolkien’s works. The Silmarillion describes him as a renegade Númenórean “who rose to power among the Haradrim, a great and cruel people that dwelt in the wide lands south of Mordor beyond the mouths of Anduin.” His people were among the servants of Sauron in the Second Age and thus came to be called Black Númenóreans.
At just over two minutes long, “Barrow-downs” serves as an interlude, but the music is suitably spooky and heroic. The Barrow-downs are home to evil spirits called Barrow-wights, who live in the burial mounds of kings from the First Age. Early in The Fellowship of the Ring, one takes the Hobbits Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry captive with the intention of sacrificing them. Thankfully, the mysterious and spry Tom Bombadil comes to the rescue.
Night Fell Behind
The lyrics to this song are about warriors riding off to battle. They sing of fame and honor, heroism and the prospect of death. They and their battle aren’t named, but the warriors count “wights” as their enemy, suggesting a connection to the previous song. Perhaps they are Men from the kingdom of Arthedain, which struggled against the creeping influence of the Witch-King of Angmar, who was later chief of the Ringwraiths. It was this servant of Sauron who sent the wights into the Barrow-downs.
The narrator of “Mirklands” speaks of leaving the world and returning to a green home. Perhaps this is a Wood-Elf on his way back to Mirkwood — once known as Greenwood the Great — after the Battle of the Five Armies in The Hobbit, or perhaps it is Bilbo Baggins himself passing through Mirkwood on his way back to the Shire after that same battle. This forest is most memorable as home to giant spiders in The Hobbit, and it’s the title of a non-metal side project by Summoning member Silenius:
With Doom I Come
Now Summoning dedicates the album’s longest track (11:18) to Morgoth, one of Tolkien’s heaviest-hitting baddies. The lyrics refer to events early in The Silmarillion, when there was a struggle in Valinor, the home of the Valar, for the jewels known as Silmarils. Melkor stole them, poisoned the two light-giving trees known as Telperion and Laurelin, and fled to Middle-earth. Thus, he earned the name Morgoth, meaning dark power. There, he established a stronghold at Angband:
In later days, when Morgoth first
Fleeing the Gods, their bondage burst
And on the mortal lands set feet
Far in the north on his mighty seat
After the Valar’s initial despair at the darkening of Valinor, they created two lights from the flower and fruit of the trees. Then Varda, who had fashioned the stars, set them in the sky as the Sun and Moon. Meanwhile, Morgoth brooded on how he might spread his doom, his hate intensifying:
Death to light, to law, to love
Cursed be moon and stars and stars above
May darkness everlasting old
Drown Manwë, Varda and the shining sun
You might assume that a heavy metal take on Tolkien would be loud and fast full-frontal head-banging for the modern dude, but Summoning is, happily, more Tolkienesque than Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. Here are pastoral idylls and dark brooding, quiet majesty and gathering clouds: the spaces between the action, the epic fantasy setting with all its possibilities. For Tolkien lovers and metalheads, With Doom We Come is a work that enchants the more you explore it.
Rating: 4.0/5 demonic alien skull eyes
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster
The Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler
One Wiki to Rule them All