Winds
The Imaginary Direction of Time

So here is the follow up to 2002’s artfully sublime Reflection of the I from Norway’s heralds of classically laced metal. For those that don’t know, Winds is the brain child of one piano progeny Andy Winter, who has garnered the aid of some of Norway’s most respected extreme musicians to help him deliver his more contemporary musical view. With vocalist/bassist Lars Eric Si (Khold, Sensa Anima), guitarist Carl August Tidemann (Arcturus, Tritonus), and the artist formerly known as Hellhammer, Jan Axel von Blomberg on drums, backed by a five piece string ensemble, Winds might be a little too pretentious and progressive for the average metal head, especially if you are looking for anything remotely resembling the members other metal projects, but what you do get is some wonderfully graceful, artistic and ambient contemporary metal that only The End can deliver.

The drawback for most listeners will be the semi operatic vocals of Lars Eric Si; continually clean and rarely deviating from the middle range of notes, his crisp voice is the perfect complement to the music, and allows the listener to focus on what is essentially the focus of Winds-the music. Hints of The Sham Mirrors era Arcturus can be heard in the compositions, and that’s to be expected when you consider Tidemann’s and Blomberg’s involvement, but Winter’s guidance keep this album purely in his ballpark, as the gracefully grandiose and controlled tunes steep themselves in mid paced tempos and orchestrated atmospherics; imagine chamber music with guitars and you get the idea.

Largely following the lead of Reflection of the I, this second album doesn’t deviate from the groundwork laid down on their debut album, its just as precocious and often self absorbed , but equally as brilliant at times. The balance between the surprisingly robust guitars and the elaborate strings/keys is perfect, as is the amount of attention they deserve, the mix is as symbiotic as anything you will hear as Winter’s compositions strive to maximize the dramatic overtures of a string sections and the driving nature of mood laden guitars. Tidemann’s solos along with Winter’s ivory tinkling make for some, transcendent moments of sonic clarity where perfection is reached (“What is Beauty?”, “The Fireworks of Genesis,” “Under the Stars”), but it also often repeats itself due to erudite yet sometimes slightly lethargic pacing (“Theory of Relativity,” “Visions of Perfection,” “A Moment of Reflection”).

As with the debut album, I’d absolutely love to see this band turn it up a notch and crank out a more forceful tune laced with the iridescent strings and piano. By the same token, attempts at shifts from their comfortable pacing as shown on “Time Without End” and moments of “Beyond Fate,” are slightly awkward and stand out as bizarrely put together when compared to the rest of the elegant material. The issue plagues this album as with Reflections though and that’s despite the undeniable talent in the band, I’m never utterly awestruck or blown away, with more tracks like brilliant album closer (not counting the three minutes of silence “Infinity”) “Silence in Despair,” Winds could be construed as a truly “great” band. However, they just remain good as they deliver solid, if expected music, that while genre breaking doesn’t challenge itself within its own sound. Winter and Co don’t ever seem to ever push the envelope among themselves, instead often coming across as formulaic, no matter how progressive and ambitious. It’s a strange dichotomy, but one well worth the listen.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
July 26th, 2004

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