Nordicwinter - Threnody (None More Black Records CD)
First off, I have to say how much I enjoy the irony (?) of a black metal label seemingly naming themselves after a Spinal Tap reference. Seriously! At least I hope that's where it comes from...we could all do with a little less over-the-top seriousness in the genre I should think. It is 2007, after all. Anyway, None More Black's fifth release is from a Quebec black metal act by the name of Nordicwinter, who is really masterminded by a one Evillair. The band does play live (what?! When?! How'd I miss it?!?), and in such instances expand to include members of Symphony of Blasphemy and Slain in Fire. But on Nordicwinter's debut release, all instruments, drum programming, and vocals are credited to Evillair.
It would seem only logical for any label to want to take a chance on Nordicwinter. First of all, one-man black metal bands are at the peak of their popularity, and Quebec black metal in general seems to be under the microscope moreso now than in a long time, due to Akitsa's continuing (underground) success. However, Nordicwinter depict two very stark deviations from both these stereotypes: you can't really classify them a typical bedroom black metal act since the songs can all be played live and don't feature any keyboards nor an overabundance of "suicidal" black metal lyrics, and although they're from Quebec, there is no evidence whatsoever of the theme of nationalism running through Evillair's lyrics (because he's obviously English - or else he's a francophone with a dazzling command of the English language). In fact, throughout "Threnody"'s 9 tracks, you could easily be coerced into thinking there was a full band playing instead of just one dude multitracking - heck I wasn't even sure if the drums were real or not until I read the liner notes. The sound Nordicwinter dabbles in is at the same time tough to pin down but not entirely original - Evillair makes no bones about paying homage to the masters like Bathory, Hellhammer, Darkthrone, and Burzum (and Mayhem for sure). Maybe a mid-tempo Darkthrone with heavy Bathory overtones would be a close approximation. And though the attack is simple (vocals, guitars, bass, drums; all tracks), Evillair ekes out a smattering of diversity from an obvious template, usually with songs averaging 4-5 minutes in length. "Enshrined in Ice" is thrash-y while "Echoes of Solitude" is a miniature epic that sees Evillair multi-tracking vocals and stirring up a frenzy from the drum machine in its grandiose finale. "Legions" and "Unto Dark Winds" come the closest sonically with Nordicwinter's USBM solo contemporaries, both displaying a razor-sharp guitar grind that's akin to what you might here on one of the more stripped down Leviathan tracks, but it (and Evillair's vocals) also make me think of Germany's Nargaroth, minus the absurd sense of humor/ludicrousness. The closing "A Blissful Twilight Death" evidences this best, boasting a similar knack for the kind of vengeful, plodding menace that the latter can be responsible full. The production on "Threnody" has a dirtiness to it that sounds deliberate, almost like listening to MP3s at 128 kbps - you know the song was recorded at a higher quality, but you just can't hear it. In terms of current black metal where it seems more and more bands are trying to plunder the depths of acceptable recording fidelty, "Threnody" seems pretty clean in comparison, though it's still no George Martin polish by any means. Also worth mentioning are Evillair's lyrics, nicely and clearly reproduced in the album notes. Generally dealing with death, sorrow, misanthropy, desolation, and the like, Evillair has a far better hand and mind for dealing with these topics compared with some of the pap heard elsewhere. They're never too dramatic and never too thin, and each one is of a highly individualistic, poetic nature. For this and for his musicianship, not to mention his ability to compose coherant, thoughtful songs, Evillair and his Nordicwinter project should be commended. However, "Threnody" never does much to stand out from the pack or make a case for itself as a must-hear record - it's simply a very good excecution of a pretty standard formula. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest a keyboard incorporation or anything, but I'd like to see Nordicwinter take a few more chances on their next record, or at least deviate from the framework they're occupying in "Threnody". But the potential is there, and it's all the more reason to keep your eye on em for the future. Heck even if from reading this they sound like your bag, go for it. You might not be blown away but I guarantee you won't be disappointed either.
Enshrined in Ice