Known for its short summers and long, drawn out winters, New England is not the worst starting point for a winter-themed album. Fueled by isolation and frigid temperatures, 1476 hail from the infamous Salem, Massachusetts and their specialty is a mixture of art and stripped-down dark, atmospheric rock. Is this your first encounter with 1476? It’s mine too. Using Our Season Draws Near as my guiding light, I discovered that 1476 have EP and CD releases going back a ways. The highlights include 2010’s release of the tribal/folk inspired Smoke in the Sky, an interesting EP making use of acoustic guitars, bowed and finger-picked stand-up bass and analogue synthesizers. Wildwood followed suite in 2012, relying on ambiance and animalistic imagery to convey it’s abrasive message of contradiction. But I believe it was Edgar Allen Poe: A Life of Hope & Despair that probably got the attention of Germany’s Prophecy Productions. Conceived in 2014 as the Neoclassical and experimental soundtrack to a Poe-inspired art show, A Life of Hope & Despair didn’t actually release until 2016. I have but one question for 1476… Where to next?
Our Season Draws Near is the tie that binds. Drawing synthesizer effects from A Life of Hope & Despair, tribal elements from Smoke in the Sky and varied vocal technique with similarity to Wildwood, 1476 have taken what they do best and dialed it all up to 11. “Our Silver Age” has a stark opening – just clean vocals and acoustic-style harmony. It’s beautiful, minimal but has a tendency to become lost if you’re not in the right listening environment. Lyrically the track speaks of flaws and mistakes, dissipating futures and the only likeness that comes to mind is the tragedy of Woods of Ypres. The slow pacing mimics the dreariness of the cover, and despite the magnificent guitar solo that slowly rises out of the latter half of the track, there’s an underlying current that the song is really just a 4-minute plus perfectly delivered introduction.
“Ettins,” “Winter of Winds” and “Solitude (Interior)” prove that just when you think you know where 1476 are going, you’re in for a shocker. Opening up with guitar-work easily attributable to Ghost Brigade, “Ettins” quickly changes course to gallop with classic Vreid. It’s an interesting and fun stylistic change, but what really has you sit up and take notice is the brash vocal delivery that draws on elements of Danzig‘s charisma. “Winter of Winds” continues on from “Ettins,” but here the band brings in a retro post-punk vibe reminiscent of The Cult blended in with The Cure. “Solitude (Interior)” opens with tribal drumming reminiscent of the band’s Smoke in the Sky outing, backed with an Ulver inspired familiarity. 1476 quickly take ownership of the track with their striking drum-work. Vocals start off clean, delivery not unlike what’s come before, but make an about-turn at the 1:17 mark by introducing the type of guttural growls you’d expect on a Circle of Dead Children outing – instead of these growls appearing in their usual habitat, they’re infused into an album that’s completely melodic.
Each song holds something of interest, uniquely used or positioned. Take for example “Odessa.” At the onset, the track hints at the retro-doom of Pet the Preacher, but makes an about-turn, adopting the post-punk revival style of The Killers – right down to the retro-speaker voice. Barely a minute in, “Sorgen (Sunwheels)” takes a little something from Toad The Wet Sprocket‘s “Walk on the Ocean” dosing you with 90s nostalgia. And then there’s the up-beat garage rock disposition of “By Torchlight,” bringing to mind bands like Foxboro Hot Tubs (Green Day‘s side-project) or The Gaslight Anthem.
Produced by 1476 and mixed by Markus Siegenhort of Lantlôs, Our Season Draws Near is lovingly crafted for your listening pleasure. Songs flow logically from one to the next, and momentum is maintained from the very start of “Our Silver Age” right up to the bitter end of “Our Ice Age.” If Our Season Draws Near is prophetic, I better keep these guys on my radar and so should you.