Review Summary: A fairly typical Paysage d'Hiver album, but exceptional nonetheless.
Paysage d’Hiver, or “Landscape of Winter” in English, is an ambient black metal project formed in 1997 from Berne, Switzerland. The sole member, Tobias Mockl (known as Wintherr), is a genius at writing music that reflects the harsh, desolate nature of snowy landscapes through extremely raw production. Wintherr has listed the Burzum albums, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Filosofem” as some of his largest musical inspirations. However, if you step into the world of Paysage d’Hiver expecting a Burzum-esque sound, you’re in for a pretty big surprise. This music is for people who can handle extended periods of long, ambient droning to the point that any instruments being used are nearly indistinguishable from one another.
Paysage d’Hiver’s eighth full length album from 2004, “Nacht,” or “Night” in English, follows the typical minimalistic and repetitive approach Wintherr so frequently uses, but changes up the formula by trying to convey the darkness of night over the savagery of winter. The intro to the first of the album’s five songs, “Des Lichtes Sterben - Part I,” opens with seventeen minutes of howling wind and an eerie keyboard melody that joins in midway and fades out towards the end. Following the slow intro, the album picks up pace (barely) and pummels the listener with a gigantic wall of distorted guitars and drums. The truly evil-sounding, wretched black metal vocals swoop in a couple minutes later to take the listener on a journey through a dark, cloudy winter night. After ten minutes of very little variation, the music briefly stops and throws some feedback at you before switching to a more somber sound, still with the droning guitars, but the drums take more of a back seat here than before.
A stand-out track is “Finsternis Tod und Einsamkeit,” which opens with a few lasting guitar chords and the same haunting wind sound from the album’s intro. The guitar slowly becomes more prominent and provides a truly beautiful element to the atmosphere of the song. After seventeen minutes the song fades out and “Des Lichtes Sterben – Part 2” kicks in with a whirlwind of loud, fuzzy guitars and feedback over faint blast beats and even fainter vocals. This is also probably my favorite track on the album.
With very little variation within individual tracks, this is an album you have to listen to from start to finish. It’s an experience, not something you can start, set down, and pick up later. At times the album will seem a bit overly self-indulgent, and at times it can sound a lot like other Paysage d’Hiver albums, but I promise that this is worth the effort to listen to. It helps to come at it with a certain attitude; don’t listen to this while doing anything else and stay open minded. Let the music take you on a journey within your own head. Wintherr makes some truly unique music, and Nacht is no exception. If extreme minimalism and lowest-of-the-low production don’t bother you, give this album a listen and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.