Winterhorde
Underwatermoon

Uh-huh! Israel’s Winterhorde’s new concept album Underwatermoon delivered, what some might call, a curveball straight to the balls. Without concerning myself with details, as the first few songs had passed, I was going to pinpoint the band’s take on melodic—if not lightly symphonic—blackened death metal somewhere between Western and Northern Europe; Germany, Italy, Scandinavia… but no. Israel? You learn something new every day.

Thanks to the album cover, combined with the premise of a concept album, I was mentally prepared for something akin to this year’s The Vision Bleak or Carach Angren albums. At first sight, Underwatermoon isn’t too far off from those two, but it doesn’t take long for the album to showcase its fearless, genre-defying, erratic behavior.

Just like the music hops from mechanic riffing to almost power metal-esque theatrics, the vocals too range from clean harmonies, to growls in various pitches, all working flawlessly in unison. Nothing is out of bounds, as the epic melodies and the hard rocking riffs swim through playful interludes and dive under beautiful passages, whilst the whole thing teases you with an answer to the question: “Are those progressive elements that I hear?” I’m not going to spoil it for you, but the answer is affirmative. The merry adventure has pretty much all the emotional spectrum present and the finer musical details ensure that the album doesn’t get stale after a few spins.

While playing in a whole different ballpark, there’s a small connection to, say, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter’s older material (“Wreckages Ghost”). Naturally, Reiter is above all, but I was kind of expecting Winterhorde to sing in German on more than few occasions. And the thing is, it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit if they actually had. On the other hand, “The Martyr and Deliverance” has a small Opeth-vibe to it (among other things), so it’s safe to say that Winterhorde truly are ‘out there’.

The concept of the album is based on a story written by the band’s bass player, and that’s pretty much what I can say about it: It has something to do with modern promos not having the cover booklets included. On the other hand, I can’t say I’d care too much either, especially when the music seems to be enthralling enough on its own. It’s easy to think that the music follows a premeditated path. Even when going here and there, front and back, the 67-minute album sounds effective and coherent. Some of it reminding me to ask, “Whatever happened to Hollenthon?”

“The Curse of a Gypsy” is a good example of a diverse, 9-minute song. It starts out very cheerfully laid back before the blastbeats kick in. Not soon after, the song transforms into something that could have been pulled out of a late-Einherjer record. It doesn’t stop there and soon then song becomes saturated with death metal and soundtrack elements. The thing is… it works.

Production-wise, there isn’t anything wrong with Underwatermoon. Everything comes off clear and balanced, but I wouldn’t have minded a bit more expanded sound. A bigger oomph. The band itself also presents itself in a positive, skillful light. Not just when it comes down to playing instruments, but with crafting songs that don’t seem out of place.

To be honest, there isn’t anything critically wrong with the album, either. I couldn’t find anything particularly displeasing about it. Not that I combed it for faults with a mine-detector. Perhaps the clean vocals have the most room for improvement, but even they manage to get the job done. Sure, some of the songs aren’t as interesting as the rest. For example “Hunting the Human” is kind of boring, but the situation is resolved soon enough, with the hard-hitting follow-up “Execution”. Considering the spectacle’s length, it’s no wonder there’s a bit of deviation in quality, but it never becomes a game breaking  issue. The album, as a whole, is neatly balanced.

While Underwatermoon did fondle me the right way, I’m not completely sure whether or not it has the meat and soul to creep into the Top Ten of 2010, especially when the on-going year has been good to metal. But I could be wrong, as with each listen, the album gets better and better. What’s certain is that Winterhorde makes most out of its time in the spotlight: With an entertaining album, the band leaves a charming, lasting impression. A feat not to be taken granted at this day and age.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
August 16th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Blackwater Park

    I’m intrigued to check this out now. Sounds like I might enjoy it.


  2. Commented by: Joe

    LOL there are too many “winter” bands out there now. can we name them all? checked these guys out, they’re damn good.


  3. Commented by: Morgenrrot

    Thanks a lot for the awesome review!

    Really appreciate it!

    Keep on rocking and Horns UP!

    Morgenrrot & WINTERHORDE


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