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Monolithic - 100%

hailmarduk666, March 26th, 2013

Paysage d'Hiver is a band that has been gracing the ranks of black metal since the latter half of the 1990's. In an era of bands shedding their raw and under-produced underground albums to sign with the big labels of Nuclear Blast, Century Media and the like, Paysage d'Hiver has never strayed from the blueprints of what has made its music beautiful in it's own way. Wintherr (real name Tobias Möckl) is the mastermind behind this musical curtain. He is the wizard, in a land full of Scarecrows. There are other bands, such as Vinterriket, Coldworld, Gris, etc. that attempt, but cannot fully grasp the notion of ice, desolation, snow-covered wilderness, and the bone-chilling coldness of a winter landscape. He is also well versed in the metaphysical aspects of space. Again, many of the metaphors and adjectives affiliated with winter, can also be attributed to space. For instance, it is cold, unforgiving, empty, and as devoid of life as the Antarctic Desert.

Unfortunately, Wintherr (I love this name because it's a clever conjugation of "winter" and "herr" or mister in German) has been silent. I suppose it is for good reason, and not surprising that his one demo a year (2 years between "Winterkälte" and Schnee / Das Winterreich) trailed off from 2004 to a three year spread, and finally silence. The lack of music production for his Paysage d'Hiver project is, in my opinion, largely the result of him putting his efforts into his other project called Darkspace where he is known as Wroth. Due to the fact that there had been 6+ years of silence from the Paysage d'Hiver front, and my hearing rumblings of a Darkspace IV album in the works, I quickly started researching. It was purely by accident that I read that a new album had been released by his Paysage d'Hiver moniker in February, and I started salivating in my attempts to get it. Well here it is, at long last, "Das Tor".

Vocally, Wintherr has a much broader spectrum of what was found on previous albums. He utilizes not only harsh and high pitched hissing vocals, but also whispers, as seen in both of the 20 minute tracks. In the track "Schlussel", the vocals are more of a hissing whisper, and in "Offenbarung" it is a spoken mumble. This is a style not before seen in a Paysage d'Hiver album, and it should be noted that this is only one of many differences that can be found throughout "Das Tor". Along with the varying styles of vocals used, the production on the guitar is a lot more clean and streamlined. Instead of a hiss in which the actual chord progressions are indiscernible, we have a layered approach that utilized the misty, snow-like tones acting as a backdrop for the more focused and crisper guitar patterns. These multi-layered guitars are coupled with multi-layered synthesizers, where you have the main chord sustained, which again serves almost as a backdrop for the more textured progressions; similar to that of an organ. The type of sample used in the synthesizer is something akin to a mellotron, and makes for a spacey, and crystalline sound. These layers upon layers form an onion that is extremely complex, and shows intense attention to detail in order to properly accentuate each individual instrument and vocal pattern to create a clear picture of a snow covered wilderness.

The production here is not nearly as raw, which allows the finer points of the album to shine through. There are higher degrees of resolution found further in the album, such as the best track "Offenbarung". Not only are there high pitched screams, but whispers, and something somewhere in between. This is probably the best cross section of the entire discography of this band that you will find in a 20 or so minute period. You have everything from back to front, beginning and end, and even smatterings of other projects that all converge into this single 24 minute point in time. Another great example of the complexity of the music is approximately 4 minutes into "Ewig Leuchten Die Sterne" where each individual piece of the puzzle is laid out one by one, when there is a transition from wall of sound to a fading out of the background guitars and the synthesizers which brings a nice meandering chord progression to the forefront, followed by the atmospheric elements progressively becoming more evident, until the listener is once again thrust into the miasma of swirling atmosphere once again.

What is left to be said? This is a beautiful, elegant, and mesmerizing release that commands the attention of the listener for the entire 80 minutes. To be fair, this is the quickest near hour and a half I have ever sat through. This wonderful release was completely worth the 6+ years of waiting. If I would have to wait 6 more for something of this caliber, I would gladly do it. I do warn the reader, and potential listener: beware! This album will entrance you. Do NOT do anything requiring concentration, or operate machinery before the effects this album has on the listener have been properly evaluated.