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Black Metal Rediscovered - 98%

AmiralMauth, April 13th, 2014

There are a few really evil black metal albums out there, that evoke such a tumult of negative emotions within me that I simply have to sit back and shut my eyes to deal with them all. It's very hard to say what calls forth these powerful feelings. It's certainly not extreme technicality in music, or even great creativity, because some of these albums--by Sunn O))), Xasthur, and others--are not especially unique or special in any way.

Steineiche is another one of those albums that exudes pure evil and darkness, and I am not sure why. Guitar work is repetitive and so suppressed and distorted that the simplistic riffles muddle themselves into noise. They form a fuzzy, gritty, freezing cold backdrop for vocals that sound like Wintherr is drowning in a bog and has nothing more other than lugubrious chants in a gargled bastard language.

There are times when another guitar part plays arpeggiated progressions in a manner that's nearly reminiscent of Blazebirth Hall. BBH could never be nearly as cold, misanthropic and evil as this masterpiece. Even the percussion is barely audible, though I find this irrelevant. The focus here is the atmosphere created by the walls of guitar noise and the abominable vocals. I'd have no idea what the lyrics were if they weren't published, but they're a masterpiece in themselves. The esotericism and absolute otherwordliness created by the music is completed by the haunting ideas expressed in the absolute poetry Wintherr has produced.

There are a few weak points, though. I found the final two tracks to be rather poor compared to the first two. Still, given that "Der Baummann" is quite an act to follow, I must tempter my criticism of them. They're good, just not when you're in quite as cold of a mood as you're likely to be after listening to the earlier half of this album.

This is what ambient black metal should be: uncomplicated, unobstructed, cold, distorted, hateful, a production of pure solitude and isolation designed to sweep you through the darkened winter forests of an unknowable domain with only the glorious night as your companion.

A Cold Winter's Might - 98%

Wilytank, December 21st, 2011

(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives:

Tobias Mockl and his gang made some very excellent music in Darkspace, but I feel that I should give some recognition to Mockl's solo project, Paysage d'Hiver, so that I can avoid looking like an ignorant cad. I did say in one of my Darkspace reviews that Paysage d'Hiver doesn't grab my interest the way that Darkspace does. That obviously doesn't mean I don't like P d'H at all. I'm sure part of the lesser appeal is me not liking to listen to winter themed music in the heat of summer though. However, winter always comes back, and one of the albums I always go back to listening to is Steineiche, Paysage d'Hiver's cold-hearted debut.

So how does pure winter work its way into twenty minutes? Exibit A: "Die Baumfrau". Two and three quarter minutes of lo-fi ambient and wind sounds, then a blizzard of black metal. It's a storm of tremolo riffs, blast beating drums, and screeching vocals all in lo-fi production. Is there variation? Yes there is. The original passage is changed at the 4:36 mark, but it is not until the 5:26 mark where the blizzard calms down for the first time. Keyboards and slower guitar notes are played which are continued when the drums and tremolo rhythm kick back into play. At a certain point in this movement, the screeching vocals are replaced by lower sounding vocals (you still can't understand what they're saying). Quieter music comes back again at the 7:43 mark with the keyboard and a lead guitar's soft playing only audible once again continued when the rest of the storm returns. The slower, softer plucking of the lead guitar is eventually replaced by a swarm of tremolo notably more prominent than the rhythm guitar's storm. The song slows down around the second half of the tenth minute, which is nice to have just to acknowledge that not every minute of this song has to be backbreaking fast. The tremolos are mostly maintained, but the drumming slows down noticeably, but finally returns at the 12:30 mark. Yet another quiet section of ambient and calm guitar starts just thirty seconds later. Toby extends this break a little longer with his muted snarling, and a more electric sounding guitar eventually creating a buildup of sorts. Then, the original black metal section near the beginning of the song is given a reprise. Though I can't say that this song doesn't repeat any sections anymore, it's not that big of a deal since it's over ten minutes since that riff was played. Within the latter end of the 16 minute mark, another new passage is played with some choral like wailing and odd percussion played alongside the blastbeating drum machine. Once that ends, the song slows down (without going into yet another calm break) with slower riffs and drumming and the sound of a bell tolling. This is maintained as the song fades out to silence.

"Die Baumfrau" is the only song on the album that gets fast paced the way it did. All the other songs are much slower, but they perfectly maintain the winter atmosphere with other approaches.

"Der Baummann" is slower and doomier. There's a calm guitar providing an atmospheric blanket over the raw sounding riffing and a bell tolling in the background once again. After about three minutes, the bell and calm sounding guitar are replaced by keyboard ambient. The vocals in the first part of this song are low growls. At 5:38, a melodic sounding interlude begins with little activity from the bass and drums. A little more than a minute later, the song switches back to the normal style, different played section. The calm guitar also returns to play a little melody only to be replaced by the keyboard just before the ten minute mark is reached. There's also some violin playing that comes in around the 12 minute mark. When the violin kicks in, the music pretty much maintains the riff it has until it fades out leaving only violin and wind sounds in the final two minutes of this song.

And the remaining track, "Der Baum", is...actually not metal at all. It's the longest piece on the album, but it's all keyboard ambient. You know what, though? I'm perfectly fine with it. Beginning at the 3:50 mark, there are vocals. This time, they are delivered in whispers to add a creepier effect. There's two verses of lyrics to read, but if you don't follow them, they seem to end before you know it; and at that point, you're barely a third of the way through the song. The rest of the song features more glorious keyboard ambient along with bits of tolling bell. Within the final three minutes, a female voice singing in an operatic fashion completes the journey and image, of the song and of the album.

Tobias Mockl has crafted an album/demo about winter in such a way that winter themed metal will never find an equal. The imagery is perfect for it. The fast and raw "Die Baumfrau" makes me feel like I'm trying to survive a blizzard, the slower death doom metal styled "Der Baummann" makes me feel like I'm wondering in a snow covered forest without having any idea where I need to go, and "Der Baum" gives me the feeling of me finding a large stone with engravings on it in the ground in the middle of the snow covered forest. After reading the engravings, I realize that this stone is my gravestone, and my soul is lifted from my mortal shell, becoming one with the spirit of winter. That is the magic of Steineiche.

Quintessential - 100%

RickJames, September 20th, 2009

Especially in this age, there are rarely any bands present that present remarkable pieces of work, leaving listeners befuddled about what should be said about them. Perhaps nothing should be said, and the listening adventure left up to the ears alone….

Paysage D’Hiver is a one-man project of Wintherr, associated with Kunsthall and the highly esteemed Darkspace. I originally investigated Paysage D’Hiver after witnessing many talks between Visionary and Droneriot about “PDH” inside of the metal chat (hint, hint, anyone?). After obsessing over sound clips provided by PDH through the Kunsthall website (, I finally stumbled upon this first demo recording. Endless consuming of the demo ensued, until I felt I could actually summarize the experience in words.

The power of this record remains in very simple, yet dynamic, conventions. First off, readers should be aware that, for the most part, PDH is not a Burzum clone or worship thereof; the entire gist of things differs largely. Steineiche, and the rest of the PDH catalog, is lo-fi and super-minimalistic, with extremely long songs, averaging at least in the ten minute range, all the way up to half an hour. That’s where about most of the Burzum similarities fall. The demo is four songs split in a half black metal, half dark ambient format, but all have a similar theme, which will be expounded upon later.

These songs aren’t some excessively redundant bulk. There is a thorough amount of songwriting done here to attest to that. The guitar work is simple, yet very effective. What is special about PDH is the atmosphere contained. Through all of the frostiness contained, there is a kind of intrepid wonder, or even awe, if it could be expressed in that manner. Riffs rise in such valiant strength that one could wonder whether he/she had scaled the Himalayas to the peak of Mt. Everest. The ambience of the keyboard strings, howling winds, with its own brand of emotion, shines clear. If any band could display the emotions of winter, this would have to be a top band, for all the bands that would claim to bask in ice and snow. The emotive gestures range from that of perplexing darkness, bottomless lacunas, even to ethereal ascension. What is brought about is this overwhelming feeling of timelessness, in all of its natural, primal expression.

Truthfully, also, the riffs as well as the other musical motifs in the other songs are related. The entire demo is something similar to that of a sonata-form piece. Sonatas are a classical pieces which contain an exposition, a development, a recapitulation (restating ideas from the exposition), and a conclusion. I am not stating that each piece is exactly part of the genuine sonata-form, respectfully; rather, I might say it has influenced Steineiche’s songwriting and perhaps its power of feeling. Notes and ideas articulated show in Wintherr’s presence to flourish and give an elegant touch to the songs themselves, retaining much relevance in each piece.

The inspirations here are carefully used, whether they are well-known or completely obscured. Paysage D’Hiver is varied in speed, at times quite expedient, at times doomy, at other times mid-tempo, while completely resorting to ambient backgrounds in others, giving off a certain air of the perpetually expanding Lustmord. The guitar work comes from what seems like tonality emphasis combined with striking resolutions and well placed rhythm shifts. This dynamic can possibly explain the emotive intensity brought forth in much of Paysage D’Hiver. Doomy riffs enrich the tone conveyed; the span between the end of “Die Baumfrau” and the “Der Baummann” intro pound with crushing rhythms, setting tone and revisiting with varying riffs and motifs.

The demo’s overall structure can be noticed by the amount of work that is placed into each piece used to complement the others. Although the songs themselves are not exceptionally complicated, the general work itself retains an accurate and precise description of what Paysage’s musical identity is: highly well-structured, with a simple format yet-meticulous detail, and cold-blowing, frozen landmarks and visages surrounding the impetus of its art. The demo is epic in many ways, from its stress on icy, raw atmospheres, to the free-flowing ability to strike a myriad of emotional forms. Even “Déjà Vu” could remind one of Queen (pun accepted) - notice the falsetto about six minutes in!

Not his best, but still amazing. - 95%

PaganFear89, June 29th, 2008

Paysage d'Hiver it's with no doubt one of the most famous bands in the european underground, having been active for ten years and releasing some of the best works in the black metal scene. Now, what I am going to talking about it's their (or better his - in fact Paysage d'Hiver is the child of Tobias Mokl's mind) first demo, released in the year 1998.

Steineiche (wich means Stone Oak in German) it's composed by four tracks, for a total lenght of over 70 minutes. The Creator (Tobias Mokl) said about this demo that every track it's a mimic of the previous one with different vocals and lenghts. After some listenings this mimic comes to the listener, stunning him - or her - for the great genious wich has composed the demo. Yes, because Steineiche it's an emotional flow of pure black metal with some inserts of ambient parts. The tracklist of this demo it's perfect because it explains the mimic of the songs. In fact even the names of the first three songs are similar to each other, and the final song - Deja Vu - it's like a "summary" of the previous ones but without lyrics.

The sound on this demo it's perfect and fits the kind of music played. It's not too bad produced, the guitars can be heared and the drum (I think drum-machine, but I'm not sure) are not mixed at a too low volume (sadly it happens in some later demos of Paysage d'Hiver). There are also some doom metal influences on this demo, such as the entire track two, with a slow guitar riffing over some emotional clean guitar notes and a growl (yeah - not a scream this time). The amazing thing it's that even if it's a doom metal riff, it reminds of the previous song wich was played in a pure black metal way (tremolo picking and fast drum beats). The ambient parts are very good to create a strange and scary feeling in the listener. Personally I was scared the first time I heard track three - Der Baum.

Overall, this demo sounds like a cosmic gift that a superior mind gave us. It's a demo that requires accurate listenings and a long period of assimilation to be understood in it's original shape. I suggest to get this album (or at least to hear one time) to every one who likes black metal, dark atmospheres and high quality music. Buy it.

Paysage d'Hiver - Steineiche - 96%

underrottingsky, May 22nd, 2007

This release is a singular vision, so don't start listening without the intent of taking in the whole hour plus experience. The vision is one of decay. Four quite lengthy songs strung together, slowly turning from a flurry of activity to absolute stillness. Go ahead, try to make an album this well thought out and executed. You'll die trying. The fact that this is a debut makes it all the more remarkable.

On the first track, blown out distortion rages alongside of delicately picked clean guitars while distant vocals howl and spit. There's some mind-meltingly good odd-time riffing, a brief reprieve, and a crushing climax. This is, without a doubt, a black metal masterpiece. The rest of the album contains (not in this order) operatic female singing, mournful violins, funeral bells, four part vocal harmonies, ambient noise, and a good sixteen minute chunk of crushing doom. What's truly impressive is that none of it sounds at all contrived or forced; in context, it all makes perfect sense.

My only disclaimer is about the sound quality. As with all Paysage D'Hiver releases, there is an overtly lo-fi (I'm supposed to call it "necro," whatever) quality that permeates the entire recording. On the other hand, if that stops you from liking this record, you probably don't like black metal, so I don't care about you all that much. Plus, compared with the other demos, Steineche sounds fucking great.

All in all, you would be a fool not to get this. It's beautiful and ugly, familiar and innovative, and really, really smart. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.