(TheMadIsraeli contributes another look-back at a classic album of metal.)
Winter are a band who have remained unfairly underrated and unrecognized in the metal landscape. These guys virtually created the deathdoom style, and on the basis of their only full-length album, they still qualify as the heaviest, most morbid, and most brutal band in the entire sub-genre; AND THIS ALBUM IS 21 YEARS OLD NOW!
What I am revisiting today is the original version of the album. Winter’s Into Darkness can be purchased on disk along with an EP called Eternal Frost that was released in 1994. Despite being a whole new batch of material, the EP feels perfectly at home on the same disc with Into Darkness. But for those who are interested, you can get Into Darkness from Southern Lord Records on its own without the EP.
Into Darkness is so dank, so dark, so putrid and vile you can literally feel and imagine yourself walking through sewage and corpses as you listen to it. Winter were only a three piece, a small band for the time and still small by modern convention, but the three of them produced such unheard of sounds that the music must have come as a shock in contrast to the rest of what was going on in 1990. Tuning their instruments down to A for fucking abysmal was something that had to have sounded nuts back then, at least in the States, though we know that even by this time, Swedish bands were tuning their instruments down to the same or similar keys.
“Oppression Freedom/Reprise” starts this album on an appropriate note, with muddy, thick-ass, distorted guitars droning an ominous progression. This goes on for nearly 6 minutes, with eerie quiet synths growing slightly louder as the track progresses. When the album hits its first track with vocals, “Servants Of The Warsmen”, the mood has been set.
I realize I’m becoming repetitive, but “dank” really is the defining word for this album. It seriously sounds like the audio equivalent of a filthy, death-shrouded torture chamber, with some bodily decomposition thrown in for good measure. The guitar tone of Stephen Flam is fuzzy and thick, both encapsulating and producing a feeling of disorientation. The drums of Joe Goncalves pound with a thunder that signals your coming end, serving less to beat your face in and more to play your life out to its end through tribal-sounding timbre. The bass of John Alman is obese and sludgy, while his vocals, with their death metal flare, are the sound of a stoic swamp beast musing to itself. All the way through, these 7 songs are pure pitch-black, asphyxiating, death-metal-soaked doom.
I fucking love this album. I know you’re thinking “this isn’t really a review”. Well, I didn’t intend Revisiting the Classics necessarily to be a review series, just nostalgic musing on albums past that defined this genre we so love. Muse with me in the comments section.
I remember when these guys came out. I had mixed opinions about the album and have yet to go back to it in many many years. Guess I need to one of these days :
They are playing Maryland Deathfest in 2012, so I’ll end up getting around to checking them out live (for the first time)
These guys always made me think of Morbid Tales-era Celtic Frost. One of the things that struck me about this album is how crisp and clean the drum sound is, in counterpoint to the dirty fuzz of the guit/bass. You can really hear it in ‘Eternal Frost’ up there.
I’m really digging this stuff, the bass/lead sounds absolutely dirty and that is something I love.
An undeniable classic. Ordered my copy from a Relapse catalogue back in 1993.
That being said, a comment. Back in 1987, Napalm Death were already tuning their guitars down to B, thanks to Bill Steer. (“Scum”‘s b-side was recorded in that tuning). It’s the same tuning he used on all Carcass records, the first one (“Reek of Putrefaction”) dished out in 1988. Bolt Thrower also tuned down to A on “Realm of Chaos” (1989). So the Stockholm death metal bands arrived kinda late in the game… And their tuning – C – they probably took from an American band: Autopsy.