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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.