Solo projects are a mixed bag for me. On one hand, you’ll occasionally get a musician’s pure, unencumbered vision, free of competing egos, stylistic conflict, or bullshit social media drama that inevitably leads to a nasty breakup and months of blog posts detailing the extended legal battle over rights to the band name. More often, however, you get good ideas and musicianship hampered by a lack of self-awareness or weakened by the absence of an additional creative force. To paraphrase Stephen King, writers are often the worst judge of their own work, and it’s albums like Summit’s debut The Winds that Forestall Thy Return that reinforce just how important a second opinion (or songwriter) can be. While not a total stinker, Winds’ lack of focus and inability to capitalize on its strengths keep it firmly grounded in the ‘has potential’ category, despite some interesting moments.
Essentially the solo project of Italian multi-instrumentalist Gabriele Gramaglia (though Facebook does list a mysterious ‘R’ as a past member), Summit shows Gramaglia moving past the Krallicey black metal of his other project, The Clearing Path, into self-described ‘progressive sludge/post-metal.’ Opener “Hymn of the Forlorn Wayfarer” proves this an apt enough description, beginning with jarring clean picking that recalls Neurosis. Moving into thrumming, layered chords, spindly clean notes, and wonky rhythmic shifts, “Hymn” begins to sound like a more technical Pelican, minus the cinematic grandeur or wistful atmosphere. The streaming leads and acoustic guitar of the conclusion do redeem things somewhat, but ultimately the track falls flat with its lack of progression, awkward transitions, and technical, obtuse riffing that hinders the attempt at an evocative mood.