Review Summary: Retcon wintery black metal aesthetics.
On the back of last year’s Im Wald
, Paysage d’Hiver will need little introduction amongst extreme metal devotees. The album, originally slated as lone band member’s, Wintherr's, debut piece under the moniker (which is kind of weird since the act has been releasing various demos and EPs for the better part of twenty four years) blew down the wall of traditionalist black metal stereotypes while fulfilling the need for gale force, blizzard like black metal. More impressively, the debut was expansive. With a runtime of two hours, taking seminal moments of lo-fi production, Im Wald
became the impressive, gold standard for raw atmospheric black metal. That aside, Paysage d’Hiver’s sophomore, Geister
is more approachable, condensed into an hour and eleven minute display. Without falling into the trap of cutting the debut’s more prominent features, Geister
instead makes tracks for a different path through the snow trapped forest.
Importantly, is Wintherr’s ability to craft atmosphere out of such a lo-fi range and yet, Geister
is noticeably less brick walled by the static rawness that enveloped last year’s Im Wald
. In creating such a contrast between the two records the ‘cleaner’, more traditional style of Geister
was to come as a shock to some fans who have attached themselves to the sweeping majesty found within the sprawling landscapes a la Im Wald
. With distinction, Geister
is less atmospheric and more virulent due to its more straightforward compositions and clearer production values which further promotes the disparity between the ten month gap that would likely suggest a natural cohesion - rather than a direct change in styles. By using the clear success of the former as a springboard for any future soundscapes, Geister
is also clearly more accessible (well, as far as the more extreme side of black metal goes). Shorter tracks define the newer record’s run-time, coupled with more definable instrumental sections. Melodies sweep in and around the often galloped rhythms and rumbled bass, while snare hits and kicks surge through the album’s sensible climes. Still, Geister
is a remarkable accomplishment that only pales when compared to the likes of its majestic predecessor.
In spite of the natural comparisons Paysage d’Hiver’s current record is receiving to the former, “Schattä” takes a stance built in whispers and ambience. Wintherr’s screams pierce through the scenery. It’s a black metal staple, finding contrast in simple compositions and yet, the stereotypes work better here than most modern day entrants into the scene. The album’s lead single, “Bluet” quickly addresses the new sound’s larger immediacy, bombarding the listener with almost catchy riffs and sensational melodies and yet it’s tracks like these that scream replay value, especially in regard to that two hour epic released last year. This time around, Geister
is clean furor.
After time, “Undä” and “Äschä” continue this trajectory. Screams pierce the tumultuous landscape, while riff and blast carry the listener this way and that while making the most of this almost simplistic Paysage on autopilot format. The album becomes centred on its riffs, musical hooks and circling passages without trying to emulate the larger mystique so easily reached. At times, Geister
almost circles on itself, carrying some ideas from one track into the next and doubling down later in the album’s run-time. It’s seemingly deliberate, grounding a listener to the linear progression of a record that aims not for the stars, but enjoys the desolate reaches of a stoned, well-worn path at the edge of a winter-worn holt. The effect becomes passably hypnotic, droning on about the same picturesque greys in the corner of a portrait to which no amount of gold framing will distract the eye.
It’s understandable that some fans of Im Wald
may be miffed with the turn of sound found within Geiter
’s walls. Doubly so if you’ve come to their 2021 effort expecting boundless atmosphere and a wall of lo-fi production. In many ways it would’ve been all too easy to continue in the vein of the former, releasing another album full of majestic, boundless black metal. If nothing else, Geister
is ambitious in the fact that it steps away from such a firm platform and paves another direction, albeit more successful and markedly accessible. Paysage d’Hiver reinvents itself again. It’s not a bad thing to evolve, reshape and rejig on a formula that will earmark a new direction of others for years to come and yet, Geister
is all that success. Forget the icy, windswept path through the trees...Geister
is here to guide you through some of the year’s more prominent and best black metal.