Midwynter – Four Seasons Of Frost

Midwynter is a band significantly handicapped by its aesthetics. The logo is somewhat awkward; the cover of ‘Four Seasons Of Frost’ is a monochromatic nature shot, and the font that the album title is in is one of the most used in black metal today. The production, though perfectly clear, is mixed overly evenly, forcing you to turn the music up quite high to detect the nuances of all the instruments. The music itself, at first glance, does not capture your attention in a very significant way. It is the very epitome of a release requiring careful listening and a focused mind to appreciate. If you can get past the rather drab aesthetics and (at first glance) seemingly fruitless music, you’ll discover something more. Much more, in fact; Midwynter’s debut EP is an extremely good piece of black art, but it most certainly requires some digging to truly unearth the beauty that hides deep under the surface of ‘Four Seasons Of Frost’.

Little jumps out at you upon the first listen of this EP; it takes time to settle. Perhaps at first you’ll only begin to notice the differentiating elements: the very subtle use of orchestral elements, the high-speed, lush tremolo melodies, the more varied than normal song structures. But after a while, you start to see just how different Midwynter is from the rest of the pack. In a genre where repetition and some degree of ambiance are defining elements, Midwynter is almost violently NOT black metal: there’s a great deal of technical skill and musical creativity on this release. There’s not a moment where the band is chugging away with Frostian riffs of old or blasting mindlessly. The closest this music comes to the traditional Norwegian style is in approaching some of Satyricon’s earlier works; otherwise, this is a surprisingly modern and forward-thinking musical style. The band moves very quickly, like they’re trying to spit out all the music they possibly can in as short a time as possible. This never makes the compositions seem poorly realized, though; everything is well plotted and professionally written.

The vast majority of the riffing on this album is tremolo and melodic in nature, and sometimes supported by violins, cellos, or choral sounds. These symphonic elements generally harmonize with the main strings, but are used tastefully and not perpetually. They are used only as an accent, and even then, are kept in the background instead of being blown into the forefront to show you just how progressive the band is. Each song is packed with a myriad of tempo and rhythm changes that never seem awkward or stilted, and in general the music is very well composed. Sections of blasting and tremolo riffing are broken up with clean, perfectly executed fills, with the nature of the blasting shifting about the drum kit to match the melodic style of whatever riff is being frantically picked at the moment. A traditional yet highly powerful black metal rasp is used, with a bit more bass and body than quite normal, befitting the heavier, more traditionally ‘good’ production of the EP. The songs in general are composed like most black metal, but have a larger number of varied portions and a greater complexity overall. While most of the different sections of music are structurally similar, subtle changes in percussion and riffing keep things varied and never boring.

Also worth mentioning is the very above average technical skill present on this record. Each instrument is played very capably, and lacks even the slightest trace of sloppiness or unprofessionalism, fitting the production well. And yet despite this precision the music never feels overly sterile; there’s always a feral, animalistic ferocity to it in its careening speed and aggression. All in all, the songwriting is of remarkable quality, using familiar elements and taking them to a new level of intensity and melodic intelligence. Little is obvious about this album; even the melodies themselves, though more traditional than the rest of the music, are generally not readily catchy and fun. Like the rest of ‘Four Seasons Of Frost’, they take some time to unlock and fully appreciate. Fortunately, this is often the mark of a good release, which ‘Four Seasons Of Frost’ most certainly is.

Though it takes time to warm up to, ‘Four Seasons Of Frost’ is most certainly worth the time of any discerning black metal fan. The riffcraft and songwriting on this EP is some of the best out there today, and I’m very eager to hear more from Midwynter in the future. Consider this genuinely recommended by me; I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed by the material showcased on this CD. And excellent work, all around.

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~ by noktorn on October 7, 2007.

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