a cave full of bats

"no synthesizers, no female vocals, no fucking compromises"

Vinterland – Welcome to My Last Chapter (1996)

By: Bari Ann

Even if you are not a huge fan of black metal, this is one album that deserves a listen. If you want to hear what winter sounds like, Vinterland delivers, offering up almost 50 minutes of icy melodic riffs that are surprisingly easy on the ears. Overlooked by the majority of the black metal community, “Welcome To My Last Chapter” is one of those albums that has achieved cult status, especially among the esteemed community of pretentious metal forums.

Vinterland’s music is a precursor to the popularity of melodic black metal that would occur years later. Truly ahead of their time, the band combines those melodic qualities with another growing sub-genre, Suicidal Depressive Black Metal. Doesn’t sound like a great time, but SDBM is black metal at its rawest. This is music that gets inside your head, whether you want it to or not. Breaking down the human condition to its bare bones, this introspective style is the definition of isolation and sadness, and can be intimidating to those who aren’t familiar with this genre. Vinterland explores the beauty of desolation, identifying with the theme of nature that permeates all black metal. Our sadness is exquisite, and Vinterland shows us exactly why we are so attracted to our own despair.

Formed in Kvicksund, Sweden in 1992, Vinterland is the underground Wintersun of Swedish black metal, giving us one perfect album before retreating into relative obscurity.Released in 1996, “Welcome To My Last Chapter” has achieved a cult status similar to Kvist, the Norwegian black metal band who disbanded after releasing “For Kunseten Maa Vl Evig Vikke,” a similarly ignored masterpiece, in 1993. Vinterland and Kvist briefly lingered on the verge of dominating the scene, actively recording during the era of “true” black metal, but for reasons unknown vanished instead.

Like the force that draws us toward the chilling nature of black metal, maybe it’s better for some things to remain a mystery.

Vinterland has a knack for spot on names. The first track, “Our Dawn Of Glory”, is what every album introduction should sound like. An instrumental passage trumps harsh vocals at 0:01 every time. RIght away, you can discern a few things about Vinterland, especially this: unlike other black metal recordings in the 1990s, they actually give a shit about sound quality. Even within the cold, bitter atmosphere created by waves of melancholy tremolo picking, you don’t have to sort through layers of distortion for melodic riffs. Secondly, the vocals sit just on top of the guitars without being overwhelming or fading into the distant soundscape, Vinterland manages to avoid this common and frustrating issue. Harsh vocals are still vocals, and have to fit into the overall balance of all parts. This track sets the “I’m freezing and alone” tone for the entire album, and of course you will be freezing and alone in the most awesome way possible.

I’m An Other In the Night” puts forth a surprising symphonic quality not as strongly present throughout the rest of the album. It quickly turns into a shining example of how to execute the transition from blazing riffs into slower, intense passages of desperation. The song structure is reminiscent of legendary contemporaries Windir, one of the most renowned Scandinavian black metal acts. Powerful tremolo picking is combined with a tangible sense of isolation, one that surrounds Vinterland Drumming abilities are not ignored; this is a track where you see some solid skills.

This flows into “So Far Beyond…(The Great Vastforest),” extending the symphonic atmosphere with a beautiful piano solo accompanied by the 1990s-required wolf howls. The sound hints of the melodies of Tolkien recluses Summoning on their better-known tracks such as “Land of the Dead,” relying on instrumental passages between harsh vocals and melodic riffs. Again, Vinterland seems ahead of their time, as more recent black metal artists like Imperium Dekadenz use similar piano work to separate moods.

A Castle So Crystal Clear” is another haunting track that relies mostly on keyboard and guitar arpeggios intertwining with classic melodic riffs, featuring intermittent shrieks that I like to call “tasteful.” Riff-heavy and ice cold, “A Castle So Crystal Clear” is an example of the consistency of the band’s songwriting and melodic quality throughout the entire album.

The main riff laid down in “A Castle So Crystal Clear” appears again in “As I Behold The Dying Sun.” This is the point where I see a lot of similarities between Vinterland and Swiss melodic/depressive black metal band A Forest of Fog, whose vocals blend perfectly into the frosty instrumentals. An intense passage of arpeggios and blast beats end this track on a ferocious note.

The dirge-like “Vinterskogen” mercilessly rains down upon your ears. The dragging tempo and insistent keyboard stir up that hopeless feeling every SDBM band wishes to convey. Screams and spoken words accentuate the lonely pain of “Vinterskogen” while managing to keep your heart beating.

Still the Night is Awake” makes effective use of repetition. A fast-paced track that echoes previous somber and wandering riffs, vocals again blend perfectly into three and a half minutes of sadness and beauty.

The following track, for me, sums up the album: “A Vinter Breeze” is “Welcome To My Last Chapter” brushing by you like the winter wind, not too heavy, but powerful while remaining ethereal, leaving you with that feeling of coldness. Instead of repeating myself, let’s just say this is yet another track that embodies the uniformity and integrity that every track on this album possesses.

The last song on the album, “Wings of Sorrow,” opens with spoken word backed by harsh vocals that complement each other’s bitterness. The lyrics bring the album full circle: “I welcome my last chapter…” an acceptance of eternal sorrow, a lifetime of bleak winters. Despite the length of “Wings of Sorrow,” this final journey is one that works, leaving you, again, alone in the forest.

Like “A Castle So Crystal Clear,” Vinterland’s sound is made of crystal. celestial, pure and unattainable. This is early melodic black metal at its finest. “Welcome To My Last Chapter” could stand alone as one single soundtrack, from a walk in the woods to the stars on the coldest night.

Listening to “Welcome To My Last Chapter” leaves you wishing the story would never end. This gorgeous debut is a supernatural suicide note from another world, but one that we will gladly read. Sorrow has never been so stunning.

10/10  (LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM NOW)

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Devin Townsend – Infinity (1998)

By: Eitan Prouser

Only 3 times have I encountered an album that truly changed the way I viewed music.   My favorite of these 3 is Devin Townsend’s album Infinity. It is an opus of songwriting, performance, and production.  From the beautiful to the bizarre this album shows a true spectrum of sounds and emotions.   While many modern Prog bands may claim to be able to achieve this, no can do it quite the way Devin can.

The best way to really make sense of this album is to look at the history leading up to this album.   In the years just prior to Infinity two other albums were released by Townsend.  One under his industrial project Strapping Young Lad and one under his own name.   The SYL album was called City.  This album perfectly chaos that is within Townsend.  This album, hailed by some as the greatest metal album of all time, is a demonstration of pure unadulterated chaos.  Every track is just crushingly brutal, fast and maniacal.  It truly is the soundtrack for a madman.  The album released under Devin’s name is Ocean Machine:Biomech.  while this album has some very heavy songs e.g. Seventh Wave and Regulator, this album is much calmer and has more of an ambient rock feel at times.   Both these albums have that very definitive Devin sound, but in reality are polar opposites.   Both of these came out within a year of each other.   These albums perfectly epitomize Townsend’s mental state at the time.   Needless to say he received professional help.

Following this time came Infinity which truly gave closure to this whole phase of his life.   Infinity is the perfect mix of the brutal and punishing feeling you get from City, and the beautiful and almost ambient feeling you get off of the Ocean Machine:Biomech record.  Most of the album has a strange way of the tracks melding into one another without feeling like its one long song. I personally always thought of it as more of an experience than an album.   To best really analyze the incredible piece of work that is this album is you have to look at almost every track individually.

From the very beginning you are instantly hooked into this classic.   The first track Truth is basically an overture for the whole album.   It is an instrumental track though it has some background vocals and some nonsense words.   The album starts with an simple beautiful lead guitar riff in layers upon layers of synth.   Before any time has past at all it becomes a heavy, very full sounding riff.  When i say full, i truly mean layers upon layers upon layers of sound.   It can prove to be almost too much and over bearing at times.   the song ends on a climactic, monumental, grandiose chord that you can almost get lost listening to.   If you listen carefully to this first song you can hear themes from almost every song on the album.   I love that trait of it because every time i listen to it i can feel every song coming up soon.  It is the perfect way to start an album.

The second song is called Christeen, and it is a complete change of pace.   It has a very poppy feeling to it which is kind of an interesting break from the first track.   It’s comprised of primarily clean vocals with some screaming mixed in.  Regardless of what style vocals he is doing he is showing an .  It is a very melodic and really just a well rounded track.  It has a very catchy chorus and the drums are subtle but Gene Hoglan proves why he is one of the best drummers in the metal world.

As Christeen ends an equally you are suddenly transported from this heavenly place where the first two tracks have put you and are suddenly sent to somewhere much darker.   There are several just evil almost demonic sounds followed by an organ.  Clearly Bad Devil is meant to sound like hell.   As the track begins it starts to almost sound like big band music mixed with metal.   The vocals are incredibly deep and genuinely sounds demonic.   During the chorus the voice once again gets clean but words cannot do justice to the amazing effect these vocals accomplish.  I cant think of anyone who has been able to pull off a sound like this.  The closest I can think of would be the Swedish avante garde metal band The Diablo Swing Orchestra almost 10 years later.   This song takes so many turns and really is a great listen but shows nothing about the madness in the mind of Devin like War.

War is one of the most maddening tracks on this album.   It builds slowly but every step leads to something bigger and better.  There is no way to truly capture all the turns this song takes.  The only part I will mention is the monumental buildup.   It starts small but quickly becomes bigger and bigger and bigger.  By the end of the buildup it is almost unbearable and overpowering.   When it reaches this point a voice cries out “can you just stop the noise for once?! PLEASE?!” Then the sound just crashes and a beautiful and serene voice comes through and sings through the end of the track.  It would never make sense unless Devin did it.

The next track is a real kickback to Truth.   Soul Driven Cadillac is just gratuitous amounts of epic layered on top of each other.  Its main riff once it hits off is a much slower version of one of the riffs from truth.  It is another one of those maddening tracks.   It is huge and its majestic.    Towards the end of the track there’s some random sounds created in post production.  When you are listening to the whole album in succession this really makes you uneasy.  This being said, if that makes you uneasy you may not be able to handle the next track.

Ants is very similar to a lot of the material from City.   It’s very chaotic and difficult to follow.   It almost seems nonsensical and triggers an intense fear of clowns sensation.  There is no other way to explain the feeling given by this song.   The playing itself is extremely technical.  It is chock full of timing signatures, sweeping, shredding, and just pure insanity.  Even tho the tracks sounds kind of like a joke there is something strangely fascinating about this song and as soon as I turn it on I can stop listening to it.

The following song shows the amazing capabilities of Townsend vocally.   Wild Colonial Boy is a step a way from everything else on the album thus, though you could say every song on the album is radically different from every other.   His voice is very grandiose and almost operatic at times.  This song always reminded me of Phantom of the Opera or Trans Siberian Orchestras rock opera Beethoven’s Last Night.   Very powerful and very dark this song has such an allure to it on this album and sticks out from every other song on the album.   It also has a brief moment where it goes into an almost Polka seeming breakdown.   If it had not been Devin this may have not worked but he makes it so heavy and so exciting.   Heavy Devy strikes again.

The next song has a feeling very similar to that of Soul Driven Cadillac.   Life is all Dynamics begins with a very ambient kind of feeling but develops into something huge over time.  This one is not one that stands out to me too much in particular, however it truly continues to show the epic that Townsend brings out.   This is yet another song which the only word to explain the power in the layers of sound is crushing.  It can become overbearing but every moment is worth it.   It may not be my favorite song but it is still a force to be reckoned with.

The final 2 songs I will couple together.   Unity and Noisy Pink Bubbles are both very random compared to the rest of the album but both remain 2 of my favorite songs on the album.   Unity is an instrumental and not really the same Heavy Devy feeling you would come to expect from this album.   It has a more electronic feel and is very…well…happy.   It is very dreamy feeling and is easy to get lost in.  Noisy pink bubbles is very much the same way.   The only differences are that noisy pink bubbles uses actual instruments and has vocals.   It has the same happy and dreamy feeling as unity but has More elements of the rest of the album.   By the end of this song, realizing where you have come from the rest of the album, you don’t even know what hit you.

This album is unlike any other album I have ever heard.   It is also probably one of the thickest sounding albums I’ve ever heard.   Once I listened to this album, no other album apart from Devin’s have ever been able to keep up and satisfy the same.   I always am waiting for the album that will put this one to the side even just a little bit but at this point this song remains an unbelievable display of an incredible mind.   I implore everyone to listen to this album as soon as possible.   It is a listen you will not regret.   I do not know anyone who cant get something out of at least one song on thsi album, it may be the only album i know with that record.

happy birthday eitan!!!!!!

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