Review Summary: A masterful work. An intricate riddle.
The mass of musical media being transported from here to there is beyond anything history has experienced thus far. Bedroom musicians and rural projects find success through consistent quality, rather than consistent advertising. While Winterhorde's inception was a generous 17 years ago, and their release schedule has been anything but consistent, it seems their breed of Israeli-tinted melodic black metal might just receive the attention it deserves with their magnificent opus, Maestro
. This hour-long chronicle of remorseless insanity is dense with painstakingly fine details that paint an uncomfortably vivid image of a world imbued with desecration. Nothing is remiss; this is a living, breathing microcosm of dramatic dementia.
is a trap. Beneath the beauty of the symphonic arrangements and melodic crescendos lies an unintelligible, drowned voice that screams bloody murder. The mesmerizing opener, "That Night in Prague", quite literally lures in the unsuspecting, before closing its doors on escape with the cue of tyrannical laughter. These fragments of impending fear are littered all throughout Maestro
, and the album plays out almost as an auditory investigation. "Antipath" provides a bombastic, orchestra-driven introduction to Winterhorde's world through furious percussion and cascading riff work. A steady ramp in intensity builds over the course of the first half of Maestro
, reaching a pinnacle at "Chronic Death". It is a pummeling concoction of death metal and black metal, with orchestral elements popping in to increase builds to massive levels.
Without compromising primary album themes, the second half of Maestro
takes a tonal shift. The monumental "The Heart of Coryphee" ebbs and flows between extreme dynamics over its gargantuan run time, and the band is presented at full capacity. Huge walls of sound are formed on multiple occasions, only to be broken up by atmospheric interludes. The transitions from aggressively large instrumentation to these quieter interludes is astoundingly clean, and while certain dynamic shifts are a tad harsh, these shifts are far and few between. A rather compressed mix causes for said shifts to have less of an effect on the ears, though a record such as this would definitely benefit from a greater dynamic range. This range issue is especially evident in the title track as the powerful chorus doesn't pack as much punch as it should when following up such an entrancingly mellow intro. "Through the Broken Mirror" serves as a fantastic reminder, however, of just how solid the album mix is. The expansive orchestration melds perfectly with the metal elements, and every instrument sounds crisp in the mix.
As the curtains drew on "Dancing in Flames", I was still left with many questions. My imaginary investigation felt incomplete. Replay. A few more clues surfaced, and a few more plot holes were filled in. Replay. Links between tracks were formed, and the mystery came to a close. Replay. New situations surfaced, and my attempts at solving this demented riddle were foiled. Repeat. It is rare for a record to spark so much intrigue purely at the hands of its sound. The journey from entrapment to eventual release is tiring, explosive, crafty, and perplexing. Every attempt yields wildly different results, and yet Maestro
is ridiculously consistent. The same characters, same weapons, same location, but multiple possible conclusions. A masterful work. An intricate riddle.