Winter Nights
Sky Burial EP

Well I’ll be damned, as far as this Texas boy is concerned, Brooklyn, New York’s melodic death metal troupe, Winter Nights, just released about as perfect of an EP as you can get, I tell you what. Sky Burial is four tracks, eighteen minutes and fifty-one seconds, and some of the best melodic death metal that I’ve heard in awhile. Not to say that I haven’t heard anything worthy lately when it comes to the genre of melodeath, because I have, it’s just Winter Nights nails that perfect mix of brutality injected into their melodious death that hits the spot just right. Not too much brutalness mind you, but enough to never forget that this is death metal first and foremost; yet having said that Sky Burial is so much more than just death metal.

Slight synths and distant ringing church bells set the tone as “Time to Say Goodbye” begins before a slower to midpaced riff,  à la Paradise Lost, comes moving out to the front. The simple riffing is emotional in its scope and build up with the drums before the track kicks off proper at the 1:04 mark. The song really wastes no time from here as all players engage at once into a nice driving beat and an uplifting and even melancholic melody all wrapped around that death metal backbone. Shifting to a wonderful symphonic gait that recalls prime Cradle of Filth around the 1:35 moment, before morphing back to that moving melodious death metal, the track has the feel of what one would get in an Enslaved, Cradle of Filth, and Vehemence(AZ) mixture. Some interesting fretwork leading into a simple but engaging lead and melodic idea, the song shines with that Vehemence feel continuing to flair in a more than competent mix of brutal and beauty. Great vocals and some nice choppy riffage begins to close things out before moody synths take over and outro “Time to Say Goodbye” directly into the following track, “Neither Faith Nor Fear”.

A few simple piano notes and some moody “gothic” flavored leadwork brilliantly moves into some burly symphonic backed melodeath with a nice pair of balls to its core. Interesting and intriguing, blasty and uplifting, the song has a grandoise, damn near cinematic, epicness while still continuing to go at it full throttle. Much like what Cradle of Filth could/can pull off so successfully well. Symphonic, brutal, evocative, eerie and brilliantly composed and executed, the track is quite short relatively speaking, beginning to fade out at two-and-half minutes the same way that it opened. The magnitude and breadth of what the band is able to accomplish in a mere three minutes is quite impressive and awesome in its own right.

Total Monstrosity riffing of death opens up “I Pray to I” as the song quickly shifts to that aforementioned brutal yet emotionally moving aesthetic that reminds me so much of Vehemence. Granted, the roars of guitarist/vocalist, Jeremy Farfan, attribute to this influential comparison just as much as the nature and structure of the music itself, as the man shares a similar tone and presentation in his phrasing and cadences with Vehemence vocalist, Nathan Gearhart; another plus for Winter Nights as far as I’m concerned. Great riffs, leads, licks, pummeling drums, and full of heaviness as well as melody, “I Pray to I” is some fantastic death metal. The songwriting being the true winning standout though when it comes to not only “I Pray to I”, but the entirety of Sky Burial as a whole, as both contain a multitude of ideas and intricacies that all work together brilliantly and most successfully.

Closing out Sky Burial is the EP’s title track, and the release’s longest song, coming in at seven minutes. An epic and climactic build up of symphonic elements give birth to death metal glory around a half minute in. A Cradle of Filth flavored drive merges with that influence of Vehemence to create some fantastic uptempo interplay that is driven marvelously by the impressive work of drummer, James Yarusinsky. This onion has got layers for sure…between the vocals, guitars, drums, and symphonic keyboard touches the band are quite adept and skillful at keeping everything flowing and continuously engaging. Never getting lost in unnecessary tangents or filler, just brutal melodic death metal that is flat out crushing. Leads, keys, blasting drums and non-stop roars merge into a barrage of constant battery even as the track begins to fade out, eventually succumbing to nothing but haunting piano. Not many bands can pull off this style so convincingly and consistently, much less do so with vocals slathering damn near every bit of the music, but Winter Nights makes it all work so well.

I wasn’t familiar with Winter Nights whatsoever before taking on Sky Burial for review, but I am most definitely glad that I did so. Not only has Sky Burial delivered the goods, Winter Nights have given me one more reason to love extreme metal (as if I really needed another) and I eagerly look forward to seeing where the band goes next, as much as I look forward to immersing myself into their back catalog. With an effort as fine as Sky Burial it boggles me that Winter Nights remains in the realm of an independent/unsigned act. Of course nowadays this can actually be a more beneficial thing for a professional band when handled correctly. Regardless, whatever the future holds for the band, whether they stay independent or join  the “big leagues”, you can rest assured it will all be in Winter Nights‘ capable hands and willed by the band itself.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
September 10th, 2021

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