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More Wind Samples, Please - 75%

CrimsonFloyd, April 15th, 2013

It's been a while since we've heard from Tobias Möckl's solo project Paysage d’Hiver. From 1998 to 2007 Möckl pumped out nine demos, some of which were atmospheric black metal and some of which were ambient. As the project’s name suggests (translating to either “Winter Landscape” or “Landscape of Winter”) most of these recordings consist of sonic depictions of primal landscapes at the heart of winter.

After a six year hiatus, Paysage d’Hiver returns with a tenth demo, Das Tor. (Though seriously, there should be a limitation on how many releases these black metal bands can pass off as “demos”; if you’ve been around for fifteen years and are still releasing your recordings on tape, they’re not really demos.) Six years away from the project has not led Möckl to change much about Paysage d’Hiver. Anyone who has heard classics like the self-titled and Winterkälte will not be surprised by the content of Das Tor. Das Tor consists of dense yet raw pieces of atmospheric black metal that sprawl across massive expanses of time. Four tracks amount to eighty minutes (though to be accurate, about fifteen minutes of the record is literally just noise, so the songs aren’t quite as long as they initially appear to be).

The primary elements are icy tremolo riffs and archaic synth lines that repeat progressions for extensive periods of time, gradually evolving, though never seriously diverging from their starting points. The drums and bass are muddled and blurry but do lend the record a quality of depth and vastness. The vocals—shrill, high- pitched screeches—are buried deep in the mix. While Das Tor doesn’t have any of the acoustic guitars or classical instruments (i.e. flutes, violins) found on previous records, it does contain some nice lead guitar lines. The slow, psychedelic solo on “Ewig leuchten die Sterne” is arguably the highlight of the entire record.

It’s fair to critique Möckl for complacency. After six years, he hasn't added single new wrinkle to Paysage d’Hiver. While this music is, as usual, powerful and engrossing, it is also conservative. Möckl doesn’t need to reinvent the project with each new album but it would be nice if a few new ideas were brought into the fold. Furthermore, though the songwriting is strong, none of the individual tracks reach the compositional brilliance of classics such as “Welt Aus Eis,” “Gefrorener Atem” or “Winter…”. An even greater issue with this record is the egregious use of wind samples. Around fifteen minutes of Das Tor consists of nothing more than the sound of wind blowing across a clearing, including an eight minute block at the end of the record. A minute or two of field samples can accentuate the overall ambiance of this kind of record, but eight straight minutes of wind is fucking ridiculous.

Predictability and self-indulgence do hurt the overall experience of Das Tor but not too severely. Anyone who was captivated by Möckl’s previous black metal releases will also be enraptured by Das Tor. It’s sort of like a majestic forest that you’ve hiked countless times before. Sure, you’ve seen the most stunning trails, but there’s a beauty to some of the lesser known pathways as well. Even if Das Tor is one of less astounding trails within Paysage d’Hiver, it is still worth exploring.

Originally written for