Review Summary: An unearthly dream come true for those looking for something with the unrelenting presence of a night terror
Paysage d'Hiver is the project of one man black metal dynamo Wintherr, who throughout an exceptionally consistent musical career has earned himself somewhat of a Kvlt-following (ha see what I did there) among certain circles of black metal enthusiasts, with both his solo project and his other band Darkspace. One thing that can't really be debated about the music in Paysage d'Hiver is this really is a love it or hate it band. Some people will hear the monotonous frozen onslaught of PDH's very particular brand of black metal and see it as an entrancing or even transcendental sonic experience, others will hear the same thing and immediately write it off as pretentious dribble, just noises wrapped in an almost impenetrable wall of hype. Needless to say the target audience is certainly a niche, and out of the entire lengthy discography of Wintherr's project, I think Kerker defines this better then any other release.
First off, approaching this Demo/album/tape/thingy as a metal album may very well leave you bewildered and somewhat unsatisfied. This release is definitely the odd one out in PDH's catalogue. Not only is this album significantly darker then others and does not use winter as the primary conceptual theme, but it also is far more abstract and experimental as well. This album's 35ish minutes float by with a very ethereal, nightmarish quality that is very cinematic and otherworldly in its delivery. The first and most prominent thing you hear in this demo's recording are the crushing walls of dissonant bass echos and howling wind samples that occupy the forefront. This technique builds an extremely oppressive mood that you'd be more likely to find in a Lustmord album then anything else. The actual instruments buried underneath all of this, just audible enough to be able to make out what the drums and guitars are doing if you listen closely. The synths in this album are another prominent element that rear their head from time to time for maximum effectiveness, nestled comfortably in between the waves of echoes and screams, and the very distant pounding of the drums. At times the layers appear distinctly separate, ebbing and flowing off one another. but from time to time one is peeled back to reveal more of another creating an enthralling synthesis of elements; it is during these moments that the album really knocks it out of the park. There is a part of the album where after a long section of chugging guitars and sustained synth notes, everything drifts apart and goes into this very dark section were you can make out the distant sound of something extremely large or heavy booming in the distance, occasionally accompanied by almost inhuman sounds of agony that sound very far away: the whole feeling of it makes the skin crawl with how unsettling it is, and the fact it sounds distant but not distant enough makes it all the more uneasy, as if one wrong turn in the albums twisted dungeons could put you face to face with whatever horrors go on within it's walls.
There are 4 parts to this album, but you're much better off thinking of it as one song divvied up into movements to avoid confusion. A movie doesn't make sense if you only watch the 3rd quarter of it, and due to the conceptual nature of this you kind of have to look at it the same way to get the full effect. Using sub-par recording quality to create atmosphere is really nothing new in the genre of black metal, but this album is still totally worthy of mentioning just because of how effectively Wintherr utilizes it here. Its very rare for a piece of music to be able to build up such a profound feeling of dread over the course of 30 minutes; any music capable of triggering such an emotional reaction, especially when you consider the puzzle-pieces used, is worthy of a listen. So get yourself in a comfortable place and blast this through your headphones before you drift to sleep. You won't regret it.