I, Voidhanger is a true friend of the Toilet. That label releases, we consume, and the frenetic cycle of vicious, maniacal intake is sustained forevermore. A new release from them crosses a bridge to another label, Italy’s Avantgarde Music. It does so through Summit, a solo project of Gabriele Gramaglia who has another solo project known as The Clearing Path, whose music is released through Avantgarde. What I’m saying here is that this guy has his music on two different and excellent labels, and most of us don’t even have one.
But that’s not the point. 2015’s Watershed Between Earth and Firmament was covered in a thrilling Record Swap between Mighty Joe Young and Christian Slater (Joe and Christian). Joe summed things up well and liked the album, but I think it clicked with me a little more. The pacing and combination of elements, in my opinion, was truly fantastic and made for a memorable and diverse black metal album from top to bottom. Gramaglia followed it quickly with a Clearing Path EP a few months later entitled Abyss Constellation. It followed in a similar vein, crafting two tracks that both seemed greater than the sum of their parts. His knack for balancing clean sections, technicality, atmosphere, and seamless structuring proved once again that he can combine elements in a freshly compelling way. If you haven’t heard either release, I can’t suggest enough that you press play and slip into the multifaceted, black metal universe of The Clearing Path.
That’s all well and good, but what about Summit (the album was covered in a mini review recently, but I personally wanted to give it the full treatment)? While other examples do exist, there are relatively few instances of a single artist releasing music in multiple solo projects. Invariably, comparing and contrasting will occur in the listener’s head if he or she is aware of the artist’s other efforts, and I think that can be both helpful and harmful. Appreciating an artist’s diversity is a good thing, but being mad that it doesn’t sound like (insert favored project/album here) is less constructive. Summit shines in the former, and it may be argued that Gramaglia even does well to satisfy listeners entrenched in the latter.
The Winds That Forestall Thy Return is a highly engaging, mostly instrumental album that doesn’t concern itself with following an established template. The opening track, “Hymn Of The Forlorn Wayfarer,” trudges heavily through sludge-like, dissonant progressions, but at the same time it feels almost serenely contemplative. Short flashes of technicality dot the landscape, aiding in quick transitions while never losing the starry-eyed, cinematic quality. Those bursts of complexity also serve to remind us that Gramaglia is really good at a lot of instruments, and we all need to practice more. By the end of its ten-and-a-half minute run time, the listener can reflect on and appreciate the long, well-crafted transition from the dissonant edge of the intro to the meditative sense of space in the outro.
Tracks like “Pale Moonlight Shadow” and “The Winds That Forestall Thy Return, pt. II” remind us that we are still firmly rooted in metal. Nick McMaster (of Krallice and Geryon fame) makes a guest appearance for one of the few vocal moments on the album, giving “Pale Moonlight Shadow” a sense of almost painful longing. The latter track easily showcases the most aggression on the album, unwinding itself and writhing through technical flurries and snarling death metal-driven passages. As a testament to Gramaglia’s writing style, signature voice, and choice of tones, the overall mood never loses the cinematic flair.
“Aeons Pass, Memories Don’t Fade” is the perfect bookend to this album. Initially driven by steady percussion interjections, a banjo eventually contributes an echoing idea backed by what feels like a haunting, celestial choir. I’ve always said that every celestial choir should be banjo-fronted*. The track slowly fades, wrapping up an album that can be thought of as a master class in tone selection, consistency of style through genre-blending, and engaging instrumental work. Some may argue that a couple of the tracks are there for filler, and while I can understand that viewpoint, I would say that those tracks are essential to the overall scope of the album. I’m excited to see more from Summit, and as such I award this album:
4.5 FLAMING TOILETS OV HELL
The Winds That Forestall Thy Return was released July 15th on I, Voidhanger Records.
*I’ve never said that