Label: Frozen Blood Industires
Bandcamp stream: Link
For a genre that deals in extremes, black metal has countless tendrils and forms. As time passes, it seems that more and more bands come up with ways in which they can take the core DNA of the genre and tamper with it, finding new an strange niches to explore. Some of those experiments lead to results that seem far removed from anything that could ever have been imagined during the early 90s, or possibly even from metal itself (ever wondered what Euronymous would have made of Deathspell Omega or Deafheaven?). And whilst such adventures are not without merit, it’s just as exciting to hear a band seeking out different areas to explore whilst still clearly staying grounded within the genre. Enter New Zeland’s Winter Deluge and their album As The Earth Fades Into Obscurity, which was originally self-released on CD but is getting a new vinyl reissue by Frozen Blood Industries. Clearly rooted in second wave black metal, the band succeed in finding ways to make the style their own, with plenty of variation and experimentation in their sound without ever coming across as pretentious or overly avant-garde.
The first thing will hit you is the speed; opener “Winters March” brings to mind the more intense, furious points of records such as De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Panzer Division Marduk. It doesn’t take long for the band’s more creative side to show, though; second track “Last Hour Of The Raven” opens with a section that reminds me as much of the high points of 90s progressive death as it does the coldest atmospheres that Immortal and their ilk ever conjured, whilst “Hail To The Worm Of Time” features a section where progressive guitar leads meld in to blasting grimness. There are plenty of such moments throughout this album, but perhaps their greatest strength is that it is often difficult to pin-point them exactly. Bands that attempt to carve their own niche or expand upon a genre often do so in ways that are so blatant they come across as rather crass, but that is never the case here; nor is there the sense that the band decided “oh, we should put some synths in the background here so we’ll stand out” – every decision feels natural and flowing. As such, it can take a few listens before it dawns upon you exactly how much work has gone in to As The Earth Fades Into Obscurity; though those initial listens are still thrilling in their own right, with Winter Deluge displaying an impressive mastery of blasting black metal.
It’s as the album reaches its conclusion that the band show the full extent of their powers. The piano-led instrumental “The Fragments Of Mankind” sets up closer “Celestial Renewal”, a 7 minute epic in the true sense of the word that serves as a fitting ending, both summarising the sound and feel of what has preceded it whilst also building upon it. This is what an album closer should sound like; full of power and threat, and as the final scream of vocalist Nekasarof fades away, it leaves you with a sense of dread, ensuring that what you have just heard will stay with you. Too many albums are let down in their dying moments, but thankfully As The Earth Fades Into Obscurity avoids this pitfall, and has the strong closer such a commendable album deserves. It is a very impressive album, with Winter Deluge succeeding in staying true to the core sound of black metal whilst finding ways to carve out their own identity, and even if it may take a few listens for the album to reveal the full extent of its powers, it is time well invested. Too many modern bands influenced by second wave black metal only end up sounding like clones or copy-cats, and that Winter Deluge rise above this and create something interesting whilst still sounding grim and “trve” makes what they have achieved all the more commendable.
As The Earth Fades Into Obscurity is available for streaming and download via Bandcamp. The vinyl version will soon be available through Frozen Blood Industries; follow their Facebook page for updates.