Reflections of the I

Let me tell you something – The End Records has become a monster label in U.S. metal. Not content with Epoch of Unlight and Scholomance reigning American black metal, Green Carnation taking the doom scene by storm and Virgin Black bringing goth and darkwave to their collective knees, The End now gives you Winds, a surefire success in the contemporary, classical metal scene.

Winds far exceed the boundaries of musical categorization and will please fans of progressive metal, black metal and just good music. The main attraction is the line-up, a supergroup of sorts. You have vocalist Lars Eric Si (Khold, Sensa Anima), guitarist Carl August Tidemann (Arcturus, Tritonus), and, the artist formerly known as Hellhammer, Jan Axel von Blomberg (Mayhem, Arcturus, Kovenant) on drum while classical wizkid Andy Winter, keyboard and producer, masterminds the whole affair. As you would expect, the end result has influences and detectable elements from the band’s members’ other projects, but due to Winter’s overriding input, there are just hints percolating down. Most easily discernable is the guitar work – spiraling black metal – that’s reminiscent of Tidemann’s Arcturus work. The guitarist, however, never fully enters the realms of traditional metal structures of speed or power riffing, which suits Winds well. Hellhammer’s drumming is instantly recognizable from Nexus Polaris-era Covenant. Under his control the album is mid-paced, solid and deliberately simple. Yet it’s also effective. Winter has some fine moments of ivory tinkling that isn’t too mopey or artsy, and in a way they’re too progressive to be clumped with handfuls of other goth bands. All these elements mesh together to create a beautiful, lush metal sound.

Even though it’s mostly mellow, Winds has undeniable roots in the softer, more experimental side of Norwegian black metal. However, regardless of the amazing talent on display, the real star of the show are the members of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, who provide Reflections of the I with sublime highlights. The cello, viola, and violin insert a myriad of delicate atmospheres that aren’t quite as overpowering or layered as Green Carnation, but truly bring a unique sound to a tried and tested experiment. Metal and classical instruments have been plied together in many projects, but Winds appear to have perfected the mix with precise levels of both – it’s inherently metal but also classically fitting.

The string instrumentation is not simply used as emotional filler either. They play a vital role in all the songs, often working in tandem with the bass and guitar, and even taking its own lead in directing the mood of a song. The very metal riff at 3:26 of “Realization” is a solid piece of writing in itself, made all the more amazing when accompanied by a soaring orchestral backdrop. The riff at 1:38 in “Of Divine Nature” indicates that Hellhammer and company aren’t shy to blast into some roaring black metal – a good grounding element – that althougth soft in parts has enough lurch and lunge to appeal to the adventurous ear.

The whole album is of high quality: it’s brilliantly played, paced and written music. Reflections of the I strikes a fine balance between pompous artistic catharsis and ear-pleasing, classically-infused traditional metal. My only minor complaint are the vocals. While delivered expertly in a soaring clean fashion, they did little more than prove as a window dressing. And as with most The End Records releases, this is not an album easily absorbed on the way to work. Its deeply introspective lyrical concept, along with advanced classical delivery demand long-term attention, which may put off casual listeners. Even those wanting a more contemporary musical outlet may feel it’s a bit too eggheaded. Add the five song debut mini album, Of Entity and Mind, as bonus tracks and you might want to listen to something more expected, but for those listening Reflections of the I is over an hour of brilliant, emotive, harmonious and complex metal that transcends genres.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 7th, 2002


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