If the call of classic horror films and Scandinavian death metal guitar riffs appall you based on past experiences with bands like Revolting and Bloodbath I suppose I wouldn’t blame you. Death metal bands rarely use the atmosphere of classic horror film scores effectively when aligning that old Hollywood/Italian camp with the fudge-thick bludgeon of ultra-distorted Swedish guitar tones. The resulting mush of catchphrase heavy death metal and south of ‘Clandestine’ sized riffs leaves a lot to be desired with few exceptions. The one exception I can endorse formed in 2010 by then Denial bassist Ricardo Gil and drummer Francisco Aguilar (Shub Niggurath) with a vision for doomed Scandinavian death metal style. Summoning Death has been a spark in Gil‘s eye for years as he tried to make various line-ups work; Having moved around southern Mexico to do so, the project would get a few false starts, at one point even including members of Question. Gil would eventually circle around to record a demo, ‘Cadaveric Environment’ (2014), with members of crust band Disterror. That first demo wasn’t remarkable but you could tell that Gil was onto something special by the time their ‘A Window From an Evil Place’ (2015) demo was recorded as he would soon after leave Denial and piece together a line-up that capable of the focus necessary for ‘The House That Screamed’ to be realized.
The original vision of Summoning Death appeared to be aimed at capturing the gory magic of the death/doom influenced realm of Finnish and Swedish pre-1992 death metal demos. I only say this because they reference bands like Toxaemia, Grave, and Depravity and tend to resemble the collective atmosphere of these bands. In terms of how their riffs and production sound lands in practice I’d say early Grave and Carnage are a good comparison but beneath the chainsaw buzz lies a lot of atmospheric flourish that will remind folks of the early scum and doom of Finnish death metal a la Abhorrence and Demilich. As exciting as the brief hits of Demigod-like riffs are much of the album relies on what I’d previously referenced as ‘Clandestine’ adjacent ideas that are less inspired. I can see great potential to go the way of say, Sentenced‘s ‘Shadows of the Past’, but some of this is lost in the ‘Dark Recollections’ style guitar tone (“Torn Apart” is even a bonus track). I don’t have any of my usual gripes with the HM-2 guitar sound this time because I think this is one of the better uses of the tone of the year.
The theme of Summoning Death‘s debut finds each track sharing a title with a classic horror film and these range from the early 20’s (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to the late 70’s (Keep My Grave Open) and a handful of these use samples or clips of dialogue from the film in question along with lyrics focused on the film’s theme or plot. I am not a horror movie buff but I have seen most of the 60’s and 70’s films mentioned. While I don’t think that they capture the campy mood or graven occult atmosphere of some of these films the lyrics are entirely appropriate for death metal narration. The death metal is the main event and for the bulk of the album’s full 60 minute length the guitar work and song structures generate the most interest. Each song contains some subtle reference to the music that influenced Summoning Death‘s sound and the first half of the album seems to focus on classic Finnish death metal atmospheric and semi-melodic guitar work. The effect is reminiscent of the more recent handful of records from Revolting but most tracks (see: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)”, “Night of the Living Dead (1968)” etc.) have a heavy Amorphis-meets-Unleashed feeling otherwise.
Since I am not a huge fan of most of Rogga Johansson‘s work, the resemblance of ‘The House That Screamed’ to some of his projects is admittedly a small detractor that has little to do with Summoning Death‘s songwriting and more to do with the traditional Swedish death metal guitar tone employed. In fact Gil‘s songwriting is remarkably clever for most of the album’s length; “Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)” stands out not only for its unique lead guitar riff but also its furious conclusion that just reeks of a new (but old school) band like Under the Church. Where I grow tired of this album isn’t in its content but in the redundancies that form with a full hour length. The interludes and Carnage cover could have been clipped out along with “Maniac” and the title track which are too similar when set next to one another. Were it closer to about 40 minutes ‘The House That Screamed’ would be more effective with all the fat trimmed. As is, I can still recommend Summoning Death‘s debut with some urgency. The guitar work should please fans of their targeted Scandinavian style and the production values are pretty reasonable. For preview “The Screaming Skull (1958)” is cumulative in terms of buzzsaw-versus-melody style and “Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)” should be catchy enough to at least suggest a full listen is in order.
Paralyzed by the fear. 3.5/5.0
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