Some days, identifying influences is the worst part of this job. Reference points flutter atop tongue tips, tantalizingly close but ever out of reach. Vinsta provides no such difficulty. This Christian Höll (Outlawed) solo project gins up a tried-and-true formula for its debut: two parts Opeth, one part Anything Else, stir ’til frothing and mustachioed. The genre of the day is folk, but Vinsta Wiads ends up heavy on the former, light on the latter. NeO, Barren Earth, and Witherscape regularly emulated aspects of Opeth‘s work to buoyant success, while smushing the faces of two somewhat similar genres together like smooching Barbie dolls has long produced excellent metal. Vinsta dabbles in both approaches, but can they do so long enough and strong enough to separate Vinsta Wiads from a crowded field?
At first glance, Vinsta Wiads‘ pictured Austrian Alps recalled a natural meeting of Amorphis‘ Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Windir‘s 1184. The inclusion of Amorphis‘ name on the promo sheet only increased my hopes for some sort of Barren Earth-style fusion. Instead, Höll lives the fOlkpeth dream. His instrumental work draws heavily on the Swedes’ musical prowess, dabbing Akerfeldtian chord progressions and leads with acoustic layering and a heavy emphasis on a darkening soundscape. But for all of its stylistic callbacks, Vinsta Wiads would stumble without Höll’s compositional and technical prowess. “Vinsta Wiads” turns in nine minutes of convincing Opeth worship, balancing atmosphere, understated folk layering, tonal shifts, and progressive riffcraft that immediately brings to mind the complex heights of Still Life. Vinsta pack in sparkling acoustics and soothing choral layers aplenty, instead relying on Höll’s growls to ashen “Vinsta Wiad.” The lead and rhythm sections suit each other exquisitely, their pairing natural and easy thanks to Höll, a true riff sommelier in the making. They invoke heyday-Akerfeldt heavily, right down to capping chord riffs with the patented double/triple chug accent that has
been ripped off by inspired everyone from Barren Earth to Ghost.
When Vinsta Wiads steps out of Still Life‘s shadow, the swampy furor of Blackwater Park takes its place. “Gedonknschwa” accelerates, accumulating momentum until reaching full blast status. Fortunately, its textures retain their soft touch and alluring nature. Though its acoustic midsection sticks around too long, a simple yet elegant Between the Buried and Me sweep rolls the good stuff back into the fold. At least early on, Vinsta provide worthwhile glimpses into the past that, though not entirely original, warrant revisiting. If anything, I wish there were more of them. Vinsta Wiads is by no means a short album, clocking in at 45 minutes, but it loses steam somewhat. The restrained riffage on “Bluatlauf” drops the guitars deeper into the mix, letting solemn choral vox and mid-tier growls propel the song to its finish. “Dei Ruaf” manages the same lengthy heights, but, like “Blautlauf,” it never shakes the feeling that it could be doing more.
Folk aspects are presented subtly — think Agalloch, not Turisas. They inject inflection at times but need weight in the main proceedings to separate Vinsta from its O-so-pethian sound. Vinsta do not necessarily need to fully divest their offerings from Opeth‘s to be successful — the quality of Vinsta Wiads proves as much — but remember that bit about a crowded field? Still, for a one-man band, Vinsta ladles depth and riffs aplenty. Vinsta Wiads remains as enjoyable on its tenth spin as it was on its first. Though the acoustic beauty of the spacer tracks and passages sometimes stunt the album’s progression, they want not for quality. As with everything else on Vinsta Wiads, I want more of it — stronger riffs, more integration, and the willingness to go balls out with it. I’m not asking for a reimagining of Panopticon‘s indulgent “The Long Road, I,” but that level of attention and commitment would elevate “Aufgongsjodler” from glorified cooldown to a memorable vista.
As an increasing number of classic acts move on from what first propelled them to success, worship outfits are gaining steam in the metal zeitgeist. From Hellripper to Xoth, it’s hard to begrudge bands for paying homage so directly when the quality of their output is so damn strong. Vinsta Wiads houses a latent beauty, from its acoustic interludes to its warm bass presence, that could be absolutely killer if harnessed to its full potential. Even if only for those among us praying for Mikael to growl again, Vinsta has a role to play.