Friday, July 16, 2010
Wintersoul - Frozen Storm Apocalypse (2010)
There's an old adage that older, wiser folks like to use that goes something like this: "Good things come to those who wait." Thing is, regardless of your age, that can often be true. It doesn't work in the job market, as waiting around generally means you miss out on opportunities, but waiting on a fine meal to be prepared & cooked can be an experience both excruciatingly long yet ultimately very rewarding. The dichotomy of this dynamic is what often does in a band or artist when they tease fans with a clip from an up-coming release, only to have its actual "street release" delayed. When an album has received so much lip service prior to its release that hype becomes hyperbole, meeting expectations can be an insurmountable task. I believe one Axl Rose, front man of a little band known as Guns 'n Roses can attest to that, given the great chasm between those who love anything he does and worship at the altar of G'n'R, versus those who felt like the seemingly unending wait to finally hear "Chinese Democracy" could never have been worth it, and that the final product was a thundering disappointment.
So where does Wintersoul fit into this picture? Well, the current musical landscape has the advantage over music lover days of yore, where we have this fantastic invention called Myspace. It allows us to make a page for our band or art, regardless of how professional or far along we are. I mean, we can say we are a band and have no songs up, but overnight have hundreds of fans, if we do enough "friend scouting" to drum up the numbers. Wintersoul has been a member of Myspace since at least 2006, where a couple demo tracks (apparently from the "Dawn of Ice Hearts" demo recordings) were posted. Once many of us immersed in the "scene" discovered them, it was immediately apparent that this band was going places. Cool logo, cool artwork on the page, great tunes, good overall sound, and the whole thing had a certain professionalism about it that just made it feel like it was a project that would make waves. Many of us wondered when a full-length album would be forthcoming. So we waited. And waited. And waited. 3+ years later, we have "Frozen Storm Apocalypse" thrust at us like a bloody sword in the heat of battle, ready to strike at the heart.
Musically, this is a hard hitting release, replete with blast beats & fast complex drumming, fast riffing with some technicality, and aggressive vocals. The guitars crunch with authority, though they aren't so over the top "brutal" that they lose their melodic quality, which is a nice balance. The riffing is fast & furious in most spots; indeed, after the intro track, it isn't until the 3rd actual song that things go from hyper-fast to mid-paced. However, there is melody throughout so it keeps things from turning into a tremolo-picked din. Bass guitar is actually noticeable in many places, and while not always totally audible or discernable, is well played. Drumming is intense & incredibly tight; not once did I hear any signs of mistake. Of course, good editing can give that illusion as well, but this sounds pretty well accurate just from proficiency versus good computer skills. Drumming sounds good overall, though the ride cymbal kind of gets lost in the mix a lot, and the drumming sounds a touch sterile. Vocally we have the usual high-pitched raspy vocals found in black metal, though they have a bit more of a death metal tone or feel in places, so the sound is kept a touch more fresh. There are also female vocals here which end up being a mixed bag. In places, the sort of dark, echoed sound makes perfect sense & fits well (like in "Shadows of Death"), but they're not always on-point, so occasionally it's as if the vocalist is either not entirely sure of herself, or is just exceeding her ability at times. Hopefully, if female vocals are to make an appearance on the next album, she will take some time to tighten up her approach and make sure she's on-key more. In addition, the nice keyboard flourishes here and there are a nice touch, and don't overwhelm the music like some black metal bands allow the keyboards to be - they're kept in a nice layer within the mix.
Lyrically, this is all very metaphorical. Lots of talk of evil abounding and generally making a nuisance of itself, all within the context of battle and winter themes. Very little light is shed on things until the end of the album, where a force for good rises up to take on the evil. It has been hinted at that this is the first of 2 thematic albums, and that this is the first half of the story. If that's the case, I suspect this volume is the one that shows all the evil in the world, and that part 2 will have a much more triumphant lyrical direction. As it stands, it's well written and provides sufficient imagery for the themes being conveyed. I never felt as though the lyrics were too dark or too foreboding - I've read works far darker and more oppressive, even from some of Wintersoul's peers.
At the end of the day, the thing everyone will likely come back with is that this is a fantastic CD for fans of Dimmu Borgir's more well-produced material. If you are into that style and you haven't already burned yourself out on that, or your A Hill To Die Upon CD, this CD is well worth your time and attention. I think the biggest drawbacks are it's short length (33 minutes & change after waiting so long?), the less than tight female vocals, the overall lack of variety (very few times where the CD slows down to breathe or change things up), and the fact that the band could potentially be seen or labeled as just a Dimmu Borgir ripoff. I challenge listeners to look past those similarities, because this is quite a good release, and shows what the group is capable of. Now I challenge the band to go back to songwriting & crank out another record (hopefully in less time) that will knock our socks off completely. As it stands, a very solid debut and a bright future ahead for Wintersoul. Recommended.