Posted by Nick Skog on Monday, July 21, 2014 Under: Album Reviews
From: Heathen Harvest Periodical
Published: July 14, 2014
Hypnotic Dirge Records is among the few labels I consider myself to be ‘following‘, so to speak. The label’s roster (and subsequent Bandcamp page) is a proverbial treasure trove of extreme and experimental music. Even the less impressive experiences I’ve had with them have been at least intriguing. I suffered little hesitation, then, when Windbruch were brought to my attention. Even if one-man atmospheric black metal bands have happened to be an all-too common trend in metal this side of the new millennium, Windbruch’s latest album “No Stars, Only Full Dark” was recommended to me with telling enthusiasm. Ignoring the suspiciously odd phrasing of the title, I dove into a song and was immediately arrested by “No More Entry, No More Exit”. Even now that it’s been quite sometime since first hearing of Windbruch, I cannot recall many times where an atmospheric black metal band drew me in so much with a single track. Even disregarding the full album, “No More Entry, No More Exit” is a brilliantly crafted piece of atmospheric black metal, and one of the best demonstrations of a one-man black metal band’s potential to amaze and emote. It’s a perfect navigation between dynamics and repetition, cold atmosphere, beauty and whatever else a listener may choose to look for in the genre.
Now, if only the rest of the album moved me that way…
“No Stars, Only Full Dark” ultimately strikes me as a somewhat underwhelming affair, offset in large part by the valour of the aforementioned standout. I don’t believe it’s due to a lack of skill or vision either; Windbruch mastermind Rodion Mikhailov sees fit to tackle a wide variety of sounds and styles here. Beyond the ‘effective repetition’ typical of this particular breed of atmospheric black metal, Windbruch dabbles in ambient and shoegaze (maybe ‘darkgaze’- is that a term yet?). As evidenced in the gone-too-soon track “A City on Fire”, Windbruch even flies close to the sort of crushing doom metal I’d most closely relate with the UK’s Esoteric. Although the stylistic drifts compliment Windbruch’s general atmosphere of melancholy, it does feel like the variety has robbed “No Stars, Only Full Dark” of a clearcut sense of identity.
In spite of the album’s stylistic variety, Windbruch actually manages to navigate the individual styles quite well. If there’s a song which I’d imagine most closely resembles Mikhailov’s musical vision with Windbruch, it’s “No Stars”. While some atmospheric black metal has a tendency to feel hypnotic and pleasantly dozy, “No Stars” actually sounds like it could pass as a sort of metal lullaby. Hollowed chimes- the likes of which you might expect to hear in a child’s nursery- make up the central idea, while dreary guitar chords thunder underneath.
While it’s no doubt the most aggressive lullaby I’ve ever heard, “No Stars” possesses a very somnolent quality, virtually unheard of in any of the metal sub-families. As I’ve mentioned, “A City on Fire” half-heartedly flirts with funeral doom; Windbruch actually has some success with creating a convincing atmosphere with this notably more malevolent sound, but the song is over in three minutes- far too short for it to feel like any of Windbruch’s doomy potential was even slightly tapped into. On the other end of the scale (both stylistically and length-wise), “Neswa-Pawuk” is an overdrawn venture into Les Discrets-style shoegaze, complete with sullenly garbled vocals and innocuous instrumentation aplenty.
I’m left getting the impression Rodion Mikhailov has some great ideas for Windbruch; too many in fact. Funeral doom, atmospheric black metal, shoegaze and some brilliant ambient touches could have come together wonderfully in more focused hands, but with this second album it still feels like Windbruch is a project in the midst of getting its identity together. He’s a skilled vocalist (his black metal rasp is considerably throatier than the genre’s average), his instrumentation and production are both effective, and in spite of the album’s consistently frigid atmosphere, there’s no doubt that Rodion’s ambition burns brightly. “No Stars, Only Full Dark” demonstrates a partial realization of what that ambition can produce. To unlock that potential, Windbruch either needs to capitalize on one of these styles, or find a way to make it all come together smoothly. For the meantime, I’m left only partially convinced.
Reviewed by: Conor Fynes
In : Album Reviews
Tags: windbruch no stars only full dark rodion silentium! atmospheric black metal post black metal ambient black metal soundtrack