Genre: Epic Black Metal
Winterlore is the self-titled second album of Utah-based black metal outfit Winterlore. While the band’s full length releases is a short list, they have apparently been together since 2005, releasing their original demo way back then. Winterlore is six tracks totaling to just over 40 minutes, so we have a bunch of medium length tracks, none shorter than six minutes. Each track covers a lot of different ground, as Winterlore reaches for an epic sound for every song, really stretching out the compositions.
Every track on this album could be examined in depth; all of them incorporate lots of different riffs, vocal passages, and epic moments. The band seems to have three distinct vocalists, or maybe just three distinct vocal styles. The fairly standard black metal croak takes up the bulk of the vocal duty. But some songs will feature vocals that are deep rumbles, sharing verses with the croak, like on “Spires of Ascension”. They even have clean “Viking” vocals, like the kind you would hear on Caladan Brood. That epic-sounding chorus of singers makes it appearance here on a handful of tracks. “Marching Hordes on Warpaths Old” features all three of the vocal styles, creating this sense of storytelling with different characters telling different parts of the story.
With so many different vocal styles, each track is completely fresh. There is little that is predictable about this band in terms of where their songs will go. Overall, I suppose you could say that Winterlore plays a style of 90s second-wave black metal, but I think the intervening years have altered their ears, because I don’t think anything like this would’ve been played in the 90s. There is far too much of an epic sound; it’s produced to sound rough, but it’s also quite clean. There are even moments where a flute will make a brief appearance, which I can’t even imagine being considered back in the 90s by those black metal purists.
The most enjoyable part of Winterlore is the riffs, which are written to be catchy, but not too catchy. You can tell that if the band wanted to, they could create riffs that are so bright and appealing that you can’t resist them. But in keeping with their grim image, they’ve purposely wrote riffs to be less catchy. Don’t get me wrong, the riffs are very enjoyable. I find myself humming the central melody of “Winterlore” (a song by Winterlore on the album Winterlore) all the time. What makes the difference, I think, is the production on the guitars. They could have been much cleaner and it would have made the solos sound brighter and the epic moments more enthralling, but then they would have been very close to something like power metal. Perhaps I’m doing a poor job of explaining this, but listen to the album a few times and I think you will understand.
I really enjoy Winterlore. It’s the kind of album I like to put on while I’m reading fantasy novels. It’s got moments that are catchy enough to draw your attention away sometimes, but most of the time you just bask in the sound of the guitars buzzing away and it adds a nice ambience to the fantasy setting. Check it out if you enjoy epic-sounding black metal.
Check it out on Bandcamp: https://winterlore.bandcamp.com/