Oct 312023

Recommended for fans of: Body Void, Lord Mantis, Amenra

If you’ve been following the site for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen us heaping praise on Germany’s Phantom Winter, whose signature sound – an ear-scraping, heart-breaking blend of sickening Sludge and savage Black Metal, doomy Post-Metal dynamics and sinister, drone-infused atmospherics which the band themselves have playfully dubbed “Winterdoom” – has been terrorising audiences since 2015.

And with the group’s latest album, Her Cold Materials, having just been released last week now seemed like the perfect time to feature their full discography and, hopefully, bring their music o the attention of even more potential listeners.

2015 – CVLT

The band’s debut is, most certainly, their most overtly “blackened” release, with the gruesome grooves and spine-tingling shrieks of opener “Corpses Collide” recalling the post-apocalyptic Blackened Doom of bands like Fell Ruin and Rorcal, albeit with an even greater love of sinister ambience (as you’ll learn during the song’s disturbingly dark, piano-tinged mid-section).

That’s not to say, however, that seeds of their future-selves can’t be detected here and there, such as during “Finster Wald”, where the keening melodies and crushingly dense guitars (recalling, in parts, of pre-Phantom Winter Post-Metallers Omega Massif) eventually give way to the sort of blistering, bone-grinding sludgery and ragged, throat-rending vocals which we’ve all come to accept as such a staple of their sound.

“Svffer” then continues in this vein, adopting a grim groove reminiscent of Cobalt at their slowest and sludgiest as the German quintet delve even deeper into the doomier, gloomier end of the sonic spectrum, before the chugging, churning charnel house that is “Avalanche Cities” proceeds to unleash an unflinching assault of pounding riffs, hammering drums and bowel-quaking bass-lines that raises the band’s game – and ups their heaviness – to a whole new level.

Concluding with the asphyxiating intensity of “Wintercvlt”, whose densely-packed dissonance and vile, blackened discordance threatens to quite literally take your breath away at times – hence, I can only imagine, why the band elected to include occasional sections of soothing ambience whose purpose seems to be to allow their listener an all-too-fleeting moment in which to escape the terrifying tension slowly binding and constricting their lungs – Phantom Winter‘s first album remains an ugly and unforgiving piece of work, that’s for sure, which you would do well not to neglect any longer.


As wrenching as the sudden loss of a loved one, and as vicious and unforgiving as an unexpected myocardial event, the six tracks which make up the band’s second album pump out a virulent torrent of blackened, bilious sludge, overflowing with churning, chugging riffs and ugly, rancorous vocals – which run the gamut from screaming snarls and banshee howls to vile, vomitous gutturals – beneath which flows an undercurrent of melody darker than the darkest black.

Kicking off with the cavernous, Post-Metal-inflected lurch of the title-track, whose cathartic screams and crushingly dense riffs deliver a devastating combination of both musical and emotional weight, Sundown Pleasures quickly establishes itself as an even nastier, borderline nihilistic, album than its predecessor, to the point hat even the agonising, Amenra-esque atmospheric creep of “The Darkest Clan” seems to drip with just as much menace as melancholy.

At the same time, however, the use of melody and cruelly catchy hooks during the outstanding “Bombing the Witches” makes for an experience which is as infectious as it is intense, with the monstrous, industrialised grooves of “Wraith War” further ensuring that this is one album you’re not likely to forget any time soon.

The back-end of the record then expands upon the band’s more dissonant and drone-influenced side, first with the eerie, equilibrium-upsetting ambience of “Black Hole Scum”, and then with the agoraphobia-inducing emptiness which make up the climactic “Black Space”, whose draining eleven-minute run-time slowly but surely builds to an eye-popping, aneurysm-inducing crescendo.

Make no mistake about it, this is one of the most gut-wrenching, yet also gruesomely infectious, albums I’ve ever had the (dis)pleasure of hearing – one which ranks right alongside similarly soul-crushing records like Lord Mantis‘s Death MaskBody Void‘s Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, and Abstracter‘s Wound Empire – and still stands out, to me at least, as one of the defining (if horrendously underrated) albums of the 2010s.


Brimming with bile and grimmer than the reaper, the six tracks which make up Into Dark Science deliver an ugly, uncompromising blend of nasty grooves, nerve-wracking riffs, and noxious, choking atmosphere, which builds off the success of the sickening Blackened Sludge sound of the band’s last album, all of which is topped off with a multi-throated vocal approach which at times teeters on the very edge of madness.

And while the album overall may be less instantly infectious than its predecessor (the irresistibly hypnotic “Frostcoven” notwithstanding), the material found here is still just as sickeningly virulent and disgustingly visceral, beginning with the doom-laden auditory horror and haunting ambience of terrifying ten-minute opener “The Initiation of Darkness”.

This is followed by the disturbing blackened dissonance and creeping dread of “Ripping Halos From Angels” and the seductive Post-Black Metal malady of the aforementioned “Frostcoven” both of which further highlight the band’s increasing usage of choking gloom and chilling calm as a way of balancing out their harsher and heavier side.

Indeed, the perfidious ambience which permeates so much of the album – “The Craft and the Power of Black Magic Wielding” in particular successfully juxtaposes sombre melodic minimalism and overwhelming, angst-ridden intensity over the course of nine deliciously dark minutes – actively serves to make Into Dark Science feel even more claustrophobic than its predecessor, and the drawn-out tension between these moments of solemn introspection and the passages of punishing power which surround them only enhances the abrasive, unforgiving impact of the music.

That’s not to say that, at its heaviest and harshest, Into Dark Science isn’t capable of simply tearing your head off – the scorching title-track, for example, could probably strip the flesh directly from your bones if played at a sufficiently loud volume – but Phantom Winter clearly have more insidious intentions in mind on this record, which ultimately culminates in the sinister stomp and slither of “Godspeed! Voyager” which closes the album in a veritable orgy of sludge-soaked sound and fury.


On their fourth album – released just last week – the band shift more towards the doomier side of their sound, beginning with the tolling bells and ringing, darkly melodic riffs of “Flamethrowers”, whose funereal pace and mournful aspect set a suitably grim and gloomy tone for the rest of the record.

“Her Wound Is Grave” picks up the pace ever so slightly, its intricately interlaced drum and bass work slowly building the tension and anticipation – slipping back, here and there, into echoing emptiness and ambience to really ramp up the suspense – until it all collapses into a churning vortex of blackened distortion and eerily infectious melody.

With “When I Throw Up” Phantom Winter embrace a moody, “Post” Black Metal style not dissimilar to the likes of Downfall of Gaia or Ultha, utilising even more coldly captivating melody and some unexpectedly forlorn clean vocals to craft one of the best tracks on the album (while still retaining the core elements of their identity), after which the mesmerising melodic minimalism and gargantuan, groaning riffs of “Shadow Barricade” once more reaffirm that band’s ability to be as hypnotic as they are heavy.

The haunting beauty of “Dark Lanterns” once again recalls the very best of Amenra or Cult of Luna, with the group leaning more towards the Post-Metal side of their sound in a stunning display of simmering, slow-burn dynamics and heaving emotional weight (aided and abetted, once again, by a bevy of bleak, clean-sung backing vocals) that really lets you see and hear how far Phantom Winter have come, and what they’ve become, since their early days.

Saving their best (arguably, at least) for last, “The Unbeholden” marries massive riffs and frantic melodies with overtones of ominous drone and undercurrents of abyssal ambience in a way which threads the needle between Post-Metal, Sludge, Black Metal and more, weaving together all these different elements and influences into something irresistibly magnetic which, nevertheless, shows that the band are still more than capable of surprising their audience (check out that unexpectedly melodic finale, for example) even four albums in.

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