Paysage d’Hiver – Geister Review

Paysage d’Hiver is an act with no need for introduction, but I have a word count to meet, so here it is: Paysage d’Hiver is a black metal act from Schwarzenburg, Bern, Switzerland, consisting of sole member Wintherr (also of Darkspace). Technically, Geister is the act’s second full-length, but he’s been cranking out music for twenty-four years: one full-length, ten demos, four splits, two compilations, and an EP since 1997. The point is, the guy knows his shit. Each album follows the explorations and encounters of “the Wanderer” throughout the ghostly and frostbitten world that Wintherr constructs. Albums like Winterkaelte and Kristall & Isa are unashamedly wintry expressions, while Steineiche or last year’s excellent Im Wald1 plunge bleakness into swaths of darkness. To avoid plagiarizing himself, Wintherr adjusts his sound for each new icy foray, so while Geister is far less monumental than Im Wald, it resides in a realm all its own.

What’s most consistently impressive about Paysage d’Hiver is its ability to create atmospheric soundscapes while avoiding fluff-centric “atmo-buttstuff.”2 We follow the Wanderer’s encounters in the ghostly netherworld, particularly with the creatures depicted in Tschäggättä, an enigmatic and terrifying carnival in Lötschental Valley, Switzerland. The project has always adhered to the principle of raw riffs and dark ambient flourishes, and Geister is no exception. However, gone are the longwinded snowy interludes and ambiance dominance in favor of a more riff-centered take. Make no mistake, this stuff is still wintry as shit, but it’s less atmospheric and more punchy in its riffs. Executed with precision and professionalism, Geister is another stunningly unique chapter in an already legendary tome.

While Paysage d’Hiver‘s sound may be far more grounded in its heavier riffs and plodding percussion, Wintherr’s emphasis on the obscure is remarkably intact. While most noticeable in the ambient Die Festung-esque closer “Geischtr,” tracks like “Undä,” “Äschä” and “Gruusig” are tastefully blistering blackened blasters that balance ambiance, symphonic textures, tremolo, and blastbeats with a backbone of riffiness. The true highlights reside in impeccably executed riff-fests like “Wüetig,” “Wärzä,” and “Schtampfä,” low-end riffs dominating the palette with doomy plods and shredding tremolo tossed in for good measure. In this way, Geister soars in its mix. While former releases relied on a blisteringly icy guitar tone to mirror what being trapped in a blizzard feels like, Wintherr balances it professionally to allow for seamless transition between traditional Paysage d’Hiver-esque fare and denser riffs. This allows the act to achieve a sort of accessibility unmatched in prior albums.

Furthermore, while Im Wald was an incredible release, it relied on absolutely mammoth track-lengths, such as the nearly twenty-minute closer “So hallt es wider.”3 It’s pretty standard fare for the act, as tracks never went shorter than fifteen minutes on Das Tor, sixteen on the self-titled, eleven on Steineiche, and eleven on Winterkaelte. Geister is far more immediate, its average runtime in the frostbitten ballpark of about six minutes, hitting the sweet spot for repetition of riffs and movements between them. This allows for much easier listening and much more massive replay ability, something that Paysage d’Hiver has inherently prohibited with its emphasis on atmosphere. It’s frankly a bit of a chore to sit down and listen to Im Wald‘s two-hour run, but Geister‘s digestible track-lengths and hour-and-eleven-minute listen is far more accessible.

You could argue that Geister is a sell-out in Paysage d’Hiver‘s legendary catalog, but it’s easy to forgive the riff-centered structure when it’s done this well. Sure, there are moments of lethargy (“Bluet”), dark ambient sprawler “Geischtr” perhaps drags on too long, and tracks have a tendency to sound similar to one another, but it showcases Wintherr’s astounding ability to evolve without forsaking his trademark tone. It would be exceedingly simple to release another Im Wald or Das Tor, so another full-length in a newer style in less than a year is a gamble. In this way, Geister pays off heartily, providing a newfound riff-centric platter of “all killer, no filler” that fits perfectly with more concise song-lengths without forsaking the act’s signature sound. It may be a step back for more hardcore listeners with nothing but time, but in addition to Paysage d’Hiver‘s discography of excellence, Geister extends the otherworldly kvlt invitation to more than just a cult following.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Kunsthall Produktionen
Websites: paysagedhiver.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/PaysagedHiver.Official/
Releases Worldwide: April 23rd, 2021

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Which landed on year-end lists everywhere.
  2. A beautiful phrase coined by the illustrious and omnipotent Steel Druhm.
  3.  Big hurdle to clear.
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