Winterhorde // Underwatermoon
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Forward thinking symphonic black metal?
Websites: winterhorde.com | myspace.com/winterhorde
Release Dates: Out Now! (July, 2010)
It isn’t often these days that I review something that I found on my own. In fact, given that the amount of time that we here at Angry Metal Guy for reviews has gone down immensely compared to the huge numbers of promos we receive, it’s probably irresponsible for me to do so. But this Angry Metal Guy is always worried that we’re still not getting every CD of golden worth and highest quality. Once again this fear has been vindicated, but fortunately for you guys, I still love metal enough that I actually go looking for shit that we haven’t received here. And because of that, I stumbled upon Winterhorde a melodic or orchestral black metal band from… Israel? Yeah, turns out, even Israel which lacks for snowy winters has black metal guys who think that snow is the ultimate eviiiil. But don’t let the silly name fool you, because Winterhorde is not just your average melodic black metal band and Underwatermoon, while excitingly ESL in name, is anything but lackluster.
To be honest, it’s tough to know where to start with describing this album. So, I think I’ll start with the genre of symphonic black metal as a general thing. First, I think we can all accept that it’s basically been dying for a while. The big bands in the genre have long been considered beyond the pale when considering who’s “true” and who’s not (that’s right Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth have long since become passÃ©, and with good reason), and the bands that have come out that have really carried the genre forward into an interesting area have actually been blending more death metal into it (Behemoth, Septic Flesh, Gloria Morti). But where does that leave the genre as a whole? Pretty much on the ground bleeding internally from malnourishment, let’s say that it didn’t get enough of its daily metals intake (oo, so witty am I!) and became malnourished and is dying. As a rule, reviews of orchestrated black metal on this website have been monolithic: this sound is basically done.
Winterhorde says “No way, Angry Jose Guy, we’ve still got something interesting to say about this.” And Underwatermoon is the result of this. Beautiful layered progressive influences, clean vocals and melodic structures reminiscent of the band’s preeminent landsmen Orphaned Land (specifically in the acoustic part and guitar solo from “Wreckages Ghost”, for example), intertwine nicely into blast beat driven black metal in the vein of classic Emperor, and with a melodic sense more akin to Insomnium than to many of the traditional orchestral black metal bands. This of course means that these guys are not playing traditional black metal as you would expect it to be played: and for this there is nothing that I am more thankful for. Not once when listening to this album did I say “Oh, listen, they love [insert band here].” Instead, I was completely enraptured by the melodic structures, the song writing and the general feel of the album.
So, what makes a band like this so cool then, is partly ’cause I’m having trouble understanding why other bands haven’t done what they’re doing yet. Blending progressive metal and more traditional metal styles into melodic orchestrated black metal with a dynamic vocal approach. Tracks like “Hunting the Human” have great, but more simplistic, orchestrations which give the record a unique feel, while still having very cool death metal feeling riffs and addictive melodies and smoother parts. The track that follows (“Execution”) has some amazing bass vocals and an addictive Spanish guitar interlude, while still maintaining a militaristic rhythm similar to the kind of thing you hear on old Dimmu Borgir records. And yet somehow, like many of the best bands that are coming out these days, all of these disparate parts come together to form a cohesive whole that rules.
And now you can maybe understand why I would willingly promote something that no record company gave me to promote: because it’s fucking awesome. The novelty, and frankly writing talent, that this band exhibits on Underwatermoon is stellar, and this leads to what I consider to be one of the most unique and entertaining records of 2010 so far. Don’t let this one fly under your radar if you dig bands like Orphaned Land, Enslaved, Istapp, Gloria Morti, Emperor or Opeth; you will certainly regret it if you do.