Melodic black metal isn’t exactly a style that’s being extensively explored nor are its boundaries being pushed nowadays. Most of the bands that play this kind of music embrace their heritage and the stylistic elements that have been set in stone ages ago by the likes of Dissection and Naglfar. So where does the Norwegian quartet Vinterbris, formed in Bergen in 2010, stand with its second release Solace and does it break any of the established patterns?
The bad news is that Vinterbris don’t bring anything radically new to the table. All the basic characteristics we’re accustomed to hearing from similar bands are here: blazingly fast drumming, tremolo riffs, and melodic guitar lines with plenty of catchy harmonies. The good news is that the musicians are quite proficient at what they do, the music itself is likable, and there are enough stylistic traits borrowed from other genres injected in the music to keep it from becoming boring too quickly. The most prominent of these are the folky acoustic passages, like the ones during the opener “Dysphoria,” which might evoke Agalloch in their early days (think Pale Folklore). On the other hand, lengthier tracks such as “The Aurora of Despair” or “Gazing at a Fallen Sky” tend to bloom with traces of (really mild) progressiveness. With this in mind, it appears Vinterbris are at least trying to break the mold in modest ways.
Still the result is, for the most part, a straightforward album that feels stripped of any superfluous, overly flashy ornamentation or complexities that might stain their original style. The tempos alternate between slower and faster parts (“Dysphoria”) and folkier and more typical segments (“Ash Alight”) to keep their formula fresh as long as possible. Unfortunately, the “more of the same” sentiment becomes apparent somewhere around the middle of the album. As the fourth track, “The Aurora of Despair” finishes, the wear in the songwriting becomes evident, as has the fact that the longer tracks suffer from a bit of repetitiveness. Considering these problems, it’s easy to explain why the record clocks at barely over 36 minutes. Luckily, the band left some of their best material to close off the album with a bang on “Euphoria.”
Despite all of these downsides, there’s something inexplicably alluring in their music. You’ve probably heard similar stuff a thousand times before, and yet here you are, enjoying it once again. Indeed, tracks like “Dysphoria,” “Fathoms,” or “Euphoria” are quite entertaining, though regrettably get old pretty quickly. As far as the musicianship is concerned, there are hardly any negatives to mention. Henrik Skar’s vocals have a pleasant quality to them whether a lower or higher pitched growl is concerned. The interplay between Skar’s and Richard Hemre Dahle’s guitars is really well done, the pair finding some interesting melodies and crunchy riffs along the way, and brief but pleasing solos flicker from time to time (“Ash Alight”). The drumming is solid as well, with Ivan Rolstad producing blast beats that feel at times like a drum machine, both a good and a bad thing. Precise and fast drumming, but also a bit dull. Finally, credit goes to the bassist Kristoffer Aalhus for producing pulsating, prominent bass lines. In fact, rarely will you hear a bass so prominent in the mix within this genre. Speaking of which, the production is relatively tight and good enough to enable the band to successfully convey their ideas, even if it makes them sound a bit hollow during certain busier passages.
Vinterbris are a solid melodic black metal band and Solace is a solid release. There are no hidden, deeper meanings or attempts to impact the scene, it’s simply a satisfying album. It’s short and generally sweet with the ability to cater to the fans of the style. Ultimately, not every record needs to break new grounds to be enjoyed