Friday, November 15, 2013

…all has fallen: SUMMONER – ‘Atlantian’ (Album Review)

With a subtle shift in direction and a name change from Riff Cannon, Boston’s atmospheric psych-rockers Summoner had released one of the great surprises of 2012 with their debut, ‘Phoenix’, a trippy, hard rocking album that didn’t receive the widespread attention that it deserved. Summoner have returned with their sophomore effort ‘Atlantian’, a sprawling, progressive journey that builds upon the elements that the band had developed on ‘Phoenix’. In addition to the catchy riffs, dual guitar harmonies, mesmerizing grooves, and psychedelic flourishes of the debut, ‘Atlantian’ swells with a languid, ethereal atmosphere resulting in an album that arguably has more depth than its predecessor. Over the span of forty-five minutes Summoner drenches the eight tracks of ‘Atlantian’ in moments of blissed-out psychedelia and bluesy, acid-tinged leads all of which are anchored by heavy riffs and an upbeat, groovy rhythm section.

What really separates ‘Atlantian’ from the band’s earlier work as either Summoner or Riff Cannon is the craftsmanship and refinement of the band’s songwriting. Rather than attack with the immediacy of ‘Phoenix’ or ‘Mercury Mountain’, ‘Atlantian’ unfolds to reveal a myriad of layers that engulf the listener. Initiated by “The Gatekeeper”, a track that captures the essence and feel of ‘Phoenix’, the album really begins to reveal its secrets on tracks two through four. “The Prophecy” begins with a mesmerizing, fluidic bassline before kicking into overdrive. The song heaves and swells, alternating between moments of lysergic groove and riff-slinging rock before plummeting into the depths of a watery abyss. “Horns of War”, another up-tempo burner, is accompanied by gusts of swirling psychedelia and intertwining dual guitar leads that melt and coalesce. “Changing Tides”, one of the softer tracks of the album, serves as an instrumental interlude that best captures the aquatic themes of ‘Atlantian’. It’s an easy-going, blissful ride that is punctuated by moments of turbulence and upheaval only to be lulled into complacency by slide guitar. Another album highlight, “Under the Crystalline Sky”, infuses elements of doom into the band’s distinct take on psychedelic stoner rock.

Though each of the tracks of ‘Atlantian’ unfold in countless directions and include a wide range of textures and tempos, it is not a huge departure from the band’s accomplishment with ‘Phoenix’. The aquatic themes of ‘Atlantian’ lend themselves to the tranquil moments and trippier atmospheres that trickle into each of the eight tracks to varying degrees. Summoner’s evolution from album-to-album has been a natural progression and despite an increase in serene, ethereal moments the album still rocks and it rocks hard. Aided by thoughtful and effective sequencing, ‘Atlantian’ is an engaging listen from start to finish, particularly for those who are seeking heavy, psychedelic metal with a progressive edge. ‘Atlantian’ is set for digital release on November 19th but “Horns of War” and “Under the Crystalline Sky” are available to stream on Magnetic Eye Records’ Bandcamp page.

Words: Steve Miller

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