Boston’s newest riff-appliance, Summoner, just dropped their third album, Beyond the Realm of Light. On the Metal Archives, they are listed as “Stoner/Doom Metal”, though this seems a far cry from the content on this album. Every song on this record uses mid-paced to fast tempos, plenty of melody, and tons of upbeat energy. The band’s DNA consists of all the usual trappings and song ideas of traditional metal and NWOBHM but the band avoids the “vest metal” label by having an aesthetic closer to Baroness and later-Mastodon than Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. Unfortunately, this shift away from the norm is about 5 years too late and not enough to save the album from moments of sameness.
The album opener, “New Sun” is perfect to kick off the album. The song wastes no time in establishing that classic 6/8 drive found in tracks like “Sultan’s Curse” off the newest Mastodon or “The Sweetness Curse” of the Blue Record. It’s an undeniably effective and visceral, albeit simple, formula that is almost impossible to resist bobbing one’s head to. Within this track, Summoner shows you everything they are good at: riffs, hooks, melody, and energy. Bassist and vocalist Chris Johnson leads the charge well with his raspy yet powerful voice that straddles the line between hardcore punk and classic metal.
By the next song, the album’s sameness starts to show. It’s not that “The Huntress” is the exact same song as “New Sun”, it’s that it’s the same kind of song: 6/8, high energy riff-fest. When an album is only 33 minutes long, there needs to be constant variety to keep the listener engaged. With the song order the way it is, there’s a ten-minute stretch of the same style at the beginning before there’s any real break from it. “Beyond the Realm of The Light” provides some much-needed contrast and lives up to the “Stoner Metal” label more so than any other track on the album. During the first section, the guitars and bass consistently nag on their lowest notes like a doom metal song should. This aggressive texture gives way to a wall of strings for a brief moment before returning to the original section again. Again, the highlight here is Johnson’s vocals and the melodic guitar work.
Before the album is over we get two more 6/8, swashbuckling tunes and not much else. There’s riffs, solos, hooks, and great vocals. As previously stated, this band is incredibly capable in their field, however, Summoner is more of a specialist than a band who wants to make everyone’s end of the year list. With all the rousing energy, all of these tracks seem like they would work much better live than on a record so perhaps this is their strong suit. The final verdict for Beyond the Realm of Light will depend on one’s interest in their specific niche. Mastodon and Baroness fans who simply need more should definitely check this one out. Traditional metal and power metal fans who dig creative riffs, Maiden-y builds, emotional, straight-forward solos, and catchy hooks will also get something out of this album. In the larger realm of heavy music, however, this album is only good for what it is.
Beyond the Realm of Light is available now and can be purchased via the Bandcamp embed above.