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A Cold Winter's Might - 98%

Wilytank, December 21st, 2011

(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)

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.