May 5, 2008

CD Review: Winter - Into Darkness/Eternal Frost

Ever heard of a group called Winter? No, not Edgar Winter, just Winter. No? Me neither, until I got a hold of this re-release from Metal Mind Productions. As it turns out, this release completely encompasses the band's entire output. Yes, every song they released is contained within the 71 minutes of this compact disk. However, despite their very limited catalog, they left a mark on the genre of doom metal that resonates to this day, or at least that is what I am told. Not having intimate knowledge of the genre, I cannot attest to accuracy of this fact. Even without being able to verify their influence, I can say that this is one of the darkest, slowest, sludgiest metal recordings I have ever heard. To take what I witness here a step further, I here their potential influence in a couple of my favorite acts that rose to prominence shortly after Winter emerged, those acts being Type O Negative and Alice in Chains. Don't believe me? Listen to the music; your tune will change.

The band formed in New York City in the late 1980's where they recorded a self-titled demo, getting them signed to Future Shock records. This led to the release of Into Darkness in 1990, however lack of promotion led them away from Future Shock and into the welcoming embrace of Nuclear Blast records in 1992, seeing the album get a proper release. Unfortunately, prior to recording any more material, the band called it quits and were scattered to the winds. Nuclear Blast did move forward and release their original demo EP, re-titled as Eternal Frost.

Long out of print, all of their material is once again being exposed to the harsh light of day, and the metal world is better for it. This is depressing music that would play well against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, filled with despair, destruction, and little hope for the future. The sound is experimental, ahead of its time, and completely engrossing. For full effect, play through headphones in a darkened room, just be sure to have something cheery nearby so as not to fall completely into despair.

I was listening to this while at work the other day, and I had my cubicle neighbor give it a listen. He could not place the band (I am sure not many people could), his first comment was: "They remind me of Black Sabbath." I had to agree. Now, the band is really nothing like Sabbath, but there are a lot of Sabbath tracks that could inspire a direction such as this, especially if combined with some Celtic Frost.

Earlier, I mentioned Type O Negative and Alice in Chains, two band that are in vastly different genres, yet feel connected to the sounds here. How can this be? Well, both bands began their rise to prominence following Winter, and both of these bands employ a sludgey sound that has been adapted and filtered through other influences. I could be completely wrong with regards to any direct influence, but I tell you, it is there. The slow, drawn out chords, the haunting, doom sound that all of them employ come across as being related, albeit mixed with other sounds. At the very least it is an interesting thought.

I find it impossible to pick a "favorite" from this collection, that is sort of like trying to pick a favorite depressing movie, it is kind of hard to do. This is definitely music that you need to be in the right mood for. It is more of a soundtrack than a proper album. Even when played in conjunction with the EP tracks, there is a certain ebb and flow that works across all of it, each song blending into the one following. Rather than playing a different song, it is more akin to glancing off a wall and heading into another direction without actually stopping to reset yourself. Although, if I had to pick a track that stood out to me, it would have to be "Servants of the Warsmen." I am not sure why, but there is something about how the vocals stand out.

The album has been remastered, and I am sure it helped but this album retains a very low-fi feel to it. Production values are low, likely do to it being produced on a small budget. Do not hold this quality against it, as I feel it actually adds to the doom and gloom feel, as it it survived the apocalypse already and is hear to warn us of the dangers that lay before us.

Bottomline. Get your hands on a copy, turn out the lights, and press play. This is an album for the world to end to. Well, not really, but I am sure you get my meaning. Winter may not have had a long career, but even now, twenty years removed from their formation, they are still able to have an impact.

Highly Recommended.

Track Listing:
Into Darkness
1. Oppression Freedom/Oppression (Reprise)
2. Servants of the Warsmen
3. Goden
4. Power and Might
5. Destiny
6. Eternal Frost
7. Into Darkness
Eternal Frost
8. Servants of the Warsmen
9. Eternal Frost
10. Winter
11. Blackwhole


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