Summoning The Lich – United In Chaos

Asa takes a deep dive into chaos as he summons the Lich!

Summoning The Lich, for those unfamiliar with the band, are a Melodic Death Metal band from St. Louis, Missouri. Formed in 2017, the band have released a demo and 2 singles, all of which has been leading up to this full-length. The band is made up of David Bruno (Vocals), Ryan Felps (Guitars), John Flynn (Bass) and TJ Chilton (Drums) and are currently signed to Prosthetic Records. Now that the introduction is out of the way, I guess you’re wondering what the band sound like. Well, if their marketing campaign is anything to go by, they like to describe themselves as a “coked-up Black Dahlia Murder” and honestly, before I even dive into this album, that’s a pretty solid indication of whether or not you think this album will be for you. However, if you’re still reading, then I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat intrigued by the band so let’s get to the riffs and see if this album is a Black Dahlia Stunner or a Black Dahlia Borer.

‘The Nightmare Begins’ opens things up with dark chords that has a slightly Black Metal tinge to it. You’re then pummeled with blast beats, tremolo picked riffs and high shrieks before the more classic Melodic Death Metal riffing takes over. It’s here that the Black Dahlia comparisons become blatantly clear as the switching between the low grunts and high screams are almost identical the Trevor Strnad’s vocals. However, they do change things up midway through with a disgustingly heavy slamming breakdown that showcases Bruno’s rather insane vocal range, with gutturals and pig squeals thrown in and some nice use of almost clean-ish vocals adding some atmospheric layering that shows that this isn’t just straight Dahlia worship. It gives the band their own dynamic to play with, showing us that they can deliver brutality and melody in equal parts to punishing effect. There’s some great melodic lead work too from Felps that has a slightly neo-classical edge to it, providing a little bit of a shreddy fix for you guitar nerds out there. As an opener, it slams you in the gut then sucker punches you after, giving the listener a great taste of what is to come. And fear not because if you dig this, then there’s plenty left for you to chew on.

The second track is much of the same for the most part, with dark tremolo picking accompanied by blast beats, technical yet melodic riffs and savage breakdowns. However, the intro is incredibly atmospheric with use of dissonant melodies and croaking vocals that aren’t too dissimilar to that of Dagon’s from Inquisition. The chorus is rather catchy and Flynn gets to show us some of his rather impressive Bass chops. It’s a good continuation from where we left off, offering some new approaches to their sound yet keeping the core very much intact. ‘The Gatekeeper’ is a slower affair, with chugging riffs and a strong focus on atmospheric choruses, with increases in tempo to up the energy and more crushing breakdowns to get bodies slamming. ‘Demon Of The Snow’ is business as usual. Fast melodic riffs with a technical edge, slower tremolo picked riffs, blast beats and some impressive lead work, with Bruno’s vocals being the intense cherry to top it all off. ‘Predatory Reflection’ is much of the same but utilizing more of the atmospheric and dissonant aspects of their sound and once again showcasing more impressive Bass playing. And of course, bringing back the filthy breakdowns, in case you were worried they had forgotten about them.

We’ve reached the halfway point and we’re greeted with a barrage of ‘Acid Reign’ (not that Acid Reign, before you ask. I don’t think H is making an appearance on this any time soon). It’s the perfect blend of everything they’ve done before, almost a greatest hits collection of brutality. The title track has a moody, almost clean intro, with distorted chords, slow paced drums and the vocals come in to set the scene. After that, it’s straight to blistering speeds and unrelenting aggression. The chorus reprises the intro, and we’re even showered with some straight up Black Metal darkness at the mid-point before a rather delicious Bass solo. It’s one of the highlight tracks as it has a lot to offer the listener and doesn’t just constantly bombard you with sheer intensity. If that sounds awful to you though then don’t worry, because ‘Descend’ goes straight for the jugular and doesn’t just tear at it, it completely savages it and then throws it in the gutter. Speed and ferocity is the name of the game here, so just strap in and hold on tight as the maelstrom of riffs suffocate you in their all-consuming heaviness.

‘Hymns (Of The Witches Of The West)’ slows things down a touch, but don’t take that as a time to take a quick breather. Regardless of the tempo the band opts to play at, the vehemence of their songwriting is relentless. Switching between faster, melodic sections and slower atmospheric refrains is this bands greatest strength, and this track has both of those in spades. ‘Death Crystal’ is the shortest song on the album so it’s not surprising that it cuts to the chase. There’s nothing you haven’t heard the band do before already, but it’s a short, swift kick to the nuts that is all about forward momentum. The penultimate track, ‘Temple Of The Bone’, is more business as usual. You want speed? Sure! You after crushing chugs to ensure you need a neck brace soon after? They’ve got you covered! Dark, haunting melodies that could make the coldest of men weep? No problem! It’s all here and on full display. And it’s now that we’ve reached the end of our journey, with the final track making sure it ends the album just as destructively as it began. ‘The Lure Of The Necromancer’ gives you everything the band has in their arsenal, a storm of fire hailing down until nothing is left. Most final tracks opt for a big, epic affair but this is purely about maintaining the unrivalled stopping power this album possesses. In fact, it’s more focused on punishing you than any other track on here with the ruthless ferocity of the riffs hitting harder than ever. And then it just ends. No flowery, 10 minute outro. No final gasp for air or sweet little refrain. Just a vicious bludgeoning leaving you with blunt force trauma. It’s ballsy, and exactly the kind of ending an album this unrelenting needs.

Now that the album is over, it’s time for some final thoughts. Firstly, I want to commend the performances on this album. It’s absolutely ridiculous how much talent these guys have, and everyone is on form, firing on all cylinders throughout the whole run time. The guitars are tight despite the technical nature of the riffs, the bass is insane, the drums are next level pulverizing and the vocals are wild with an awful lot of variety. The songs are well crafted too, with lots of little layers and switching between tempos and emotions is seamless. The whole album is one fluid motion of extremity. The production is top notch stuff, with everything sounding clean and allowing the surgically precise performances to stand out. Everything is audible and it’s an incredibly crisp final product. Some people may prefer the more DIY, dirty type of sound but for music this intricate, with so many different things happening and with the speed and technicality being so off the charts, it’s pretty much mandatory for the production to be this way, otherwise everything would get lost and you wouldn’t be able to appreciate what is happening anywhere near as much.

With that out the way though, I guess it’s time to get to some of the stuff people may struggle with. Firstly, this album is 12 tracks long. The tracks even out to roughly 4 minutes each so it’s not really that long in total length, but I think just seeing the 12 tracks and knowing how intense this experience is may put some people off. Then there’s the fact that there’s quite a lot of more Slam/Deathcore influences thrown in, which may also be off putting for others. There’s certainly little to no Thrash on this release so I wouldn’t go in expecting that as you will be sorely disappointed. I think the biggest thing though is that the songs don’t have much variety. To some, that’s completely fine but to others… I can imagine that it might get boring very quickly and that discerning when a new track begins could be overwhelming, especially when you couple this with just how relentless and extreme the album is. It’s a lot to digest and it all comes at you with rapid ferocity. There’s not time to breathe, to gather your thoughts or to try and collect yourself. And I can understand how this will just be too much for some, because it was at times a little much for me. I like to listen to the albums I review quite a lot before doing the actual review in order to give everything a chance but sometimes, this listen was a bit tough to get through in one sitting and it meant it took longer to do the review.

However, with all of that said and done, this is a pretty damn incredible album. The slamming breakdowns aren’t always for me, but they’re used to devastating effect. The riffs are the right mix between technical prowess and melodic flair, with atmosphere and moody dissonance aplenty. This is 12 tracks of pure extremity and it’s completely shameless in that regard. I’m almost fairly certain that this album would gladly destroy the cosmos if given half the chance, such is the destructive nature of this behemoth. It’s a lot to endure but it’s ultimately worth it and is something that I know a lot of people will enjoy, especially if you’re a big Black Dahlia fan like I am. If you want your Melodeath married with technical precision, slamming brutality and blackened atmospherics, then I highly recommend checking this one out. You won’t be disappointed.

Summoning The Lich – United In Chaos is released via Prosthetic Records on the 26th February 2021

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