Amidst a sheer wall of noise and minimalistic ambiance, Paysage d'Hiver somehow manage to craft some of the most captivating and engrossing black metal in the world today. It's raw and brazen but still dynamic and willing to shift its weight around to cover a multitude of different influences. Paysage d’Hiver is French for “Landscape of Winter”, a title befitting of everything the band has released, but it's much more than that, too. It's not simply rawness for the sake of being considered respectable, it's actually a worthwhile attribute to the aura of the album that simply wouldn't be the same had the production been even slightly more clean.
To describe what exactly Winterkalte
is like to listen to is an irrational thing to do. There are many ways to describe what the music sounds like, yes, but that is missing half the point. Amidst the confusion of fuzzy guitars, treble-laden riffs and crashing cymbals there is something more, something which really must be heard at the right place at the right time to really understand. Winterkalte
certainly isn’t an album you listen to often. It isn’t something you put on for one track, and then go along with whatever you were doing. No, Winterkalte
is one of those albums which you simply must listen to in its entirety. It is a mix of some of the most aggressive black metal ever recorded and an alarmingly precise realization of the atmosphere it was written to convey. The entire thing is, upon first listen, chunked into sections of literally relentless walls of noise and calming ambiance. The guitars are muffled, horribly under-produced, damn near unintelligible, yet uniquely black metal. Couple this with a scream frightful enough to make Abbath and Horgh realize how much of a joke they are, and you have something which fits perfectly with the instrumentation here.
The album has a really interesting ability to leave you with no solid memory of any of the guitar riffs played. They are unique, yes, and even borderline melodic (see the riff in “Eintritt In Die Sphaeren...” at about 3:20) but somehow never really stick with you. The drumming is nothing but a distant crashing; a crashing of cymbals, along with the repeated snare strikes which roll at a consistently hurried pace. The pace is virtually unrelenting; even when everything slows down a bit the overwhelmingly claustrophobic feeling of the music remains, even stronger than before. While all this is going on the vocals are letting out shriek after shriek somewhere behind the guitars and the repeated snare barrage.
Being as bleak as possible is an uncanny ability which Winterkalte
uses countless times during its hour and a half running time. Its atmosphere is, unlike an overwhelming majority of black metal bands, a crucial part to the overall ebb and flow of the album. The entire thing is centered on the unrivaled solitude surrounding winter, something which is apparent nearly instantly. It’s also present as the music shifts between the black metal assault and the very calming ambient sections. It may sound unnecessary and downright stupid, but the 15 minute track “Einsamkeit...” is devoted to nothing but the ambient aspect of the album, giving the listener both a well-earned break but also a moment to reflect on how cohesive Winterkalte
manages to be, despite the opposite spectrum which each aspect of the music embodies. A vast majority of this ambiance is the sound of a cold wind and what sounds to be self-recorded clips of boots crunching through deep snow. Normally this would be absurdly pretentious, but somehow it is an integral part to what Winterkalte
is as a whole composition.
What is also interesting is how much the album grew on me, considering my past experiences with Paysage d’Hiver have been fairly neutral. Winterkalte
is most definitely a stark contrast to his self-titled demo, not in musical style but in lasting power. Winterkalte
is one of those albums which you will find yourself wanting to listen to every night, yet you can’t explain why. None of the guitar riffs are memorable, the production is horrible (even for black metal standards), the music is headache-inducing at points, but it is just nothing short of the perfect black metal album. This is the music which many bands dream about writing, it is a quintessential piece of music for those who just want more out of the genre than silly cliches and the same old Satanist bull ***. You could easily say that Paysage d’Hiver embodies many of these cliches, but the way the music gets to your mind is something which certainly is not. It is that album which you simply cannot hum, head bang, or air guitar to. No, this is that album which you cannot remember when you want to. Winterkalte
is an album which just lingers there, being a release which you cannot remember, yet cannot get out of your head.