Review Summary: A gold standard for modern black metal
After months of writer’s block, I knew I finally had to put my thoughts into words again after hearing the best album of Paysage d’Hiver’s career. It motivated me. I knew I had to isolate myself in my dark dungeon of a basement – coincidentally the location of my computer – and do the damn thing. I really didn’t have to convince myself very hard; I just knew it had to happen. After all, I’ve only ever felt this level of passion for a black metal album about once or twice before – one of those times being when I first heard The Mantle
. I do not mislead you; Im Wald
is the kind of album that comes out about once a decade.
is the moment Paysage d’Hiver makes the leap from “go-to artist for a cold, snowy night” to one of the best artists in metal, period. Many of the trademarks of the one-man band are still intact; the production remains muffled through a thick aesthetic reminiscent of a pounding storm. Wintherr’s shrieks are just as profound and eerie as ever, often latching onto the swirling mass of guitars and blast beats with dizzying fashion. Behind the typical lo-fi production shroud, however, the man has refined the sound of his project and expanded on influences tremendously. With a more balanced mixture of doom, post metal, black, and even folk at times, Im Wald
feels like a gold standard for modern metal. Across two immense hours, the act’s first album in seven years never loses its sense of momentum or passion.
Each track on Paysage d’Hiver’s lengthy epic unfolds with the faint static of an ice-cold wind, but where it goes from there is often unpredictable and exciting. “Le ‘reve lucide” lays the groundwork for the album’s most triumphant moments. The galloping riffs trample onward for thirteen minutes straight with the company of sparse, weeping strings; the guitar melody here is a thing of perfection. “Weiter, immer weiter” is a major highlight as well, with an ominous tone that never comes close to loosening its grip through a heap of sprawling, relentless instrumentation. I also can’t forget to mention “Stimmen im Wald”, which sounds like vintage Viking black metal in the best kind of way. It’s easy to forget you’re listening to Paysage d’Hiver as things kick off with somber folk singing. This quickly builds into a crushing wall of sound that replicates the intensity of horses charging full speed into a battle scene.
Aside from towering guitars and drums that carry songs for enormous stretches, there are moments in Im Wald
that are simply designed to get lost in. “Flug” is the midsection breather: a therapeutic number that makes way for the album’s finest moments with a mixture of crawling doom and starry ambience. Many of the shorter tracks act as interludes, seamlessly connecting the densest moments with haunting keys, ancient wind chimes, and other ominous, hard-to-decipher sounds of the forest. These are songs that beg you to gaze up at the sky at night; to truly embrace the mystery of nature. The main attraction in this regard, though, is the closing track, “So hallt es wider.” Possessing a celestial, open feel that often makes “Im Wald” special, the closer is the longest and most unique number of the bunch. The mesmerizing and spaced out structure make it a hard one to crack at first, but you’ll begin to understand its scope as it slowly engulfs you.
Despite its massive length, Im Wald
proves to be the most accessible choice in Paysage d’Hiver’s sizeable discography. It’s a flawless 2-hour epic that dabbles in plenty of subgenres with a sharp focus and level of quality few bands could replicate. Even with over two decades of quality black metal under his belt, the force behind Paysage d’Hiver has really outdone himself this time. Completely mesmerizing from start to finish, there’s virtually not a second here that won’t win you over. Just when I was getting a sense of “I’ve seen it all” when it comes to black metal, Im Wald
restored my passion and love for the genre in a single, but massive 120-minute fell swoop.