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The winter rages on. - 85%

Witchfvcker, December 11th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Werewolf Records (Digipak)

For a band that remains submerged in the Finnish black metal underground, Satanic Warmaster has steadily become a surprisingly widespread cult phenomenon. The four years that have passed since Nachzehrer have been filled with singles and a live album, as the band’s growing popularity has foreshadowed a grand return of the barbarian wolves. With this in mind, one could easily have expected Fimbulwinter to arrive with resounding hype, yet project mastermind Werwolf has opted for a low-key release on his own Werewolf Records. Thus Satanic Warmaster embody the paradoxical symbiosis of black metal and the internet, where a band approaching 250 000 Facebook-followers keeps releasing limited vinyl with little to no advertising.

Fimbulwinter immediately separates itself from the bulk of the Warmaster-discography with its markedly improved production values. The signature tin-can sound is scrapped in favor of a fuller mix, making for a significant departure from the raw atmospheres of Nachzehrer and especially Opferblut. Obviously we’re not talking about Satyricon-levels of slickness though, and despite the somewhat blunted sound, the furious drums and simple yet effective riffs all scream Satanic Warmaster. None of the songs here dip below the 5-minute mark, and consequently the punk rock approach has been toned down in favor of more varied compositions.

The atmosphere throughout Fimbulwinter does not venture far from previous outings, although the structure is somewhat more varied than the lackluster Nachzehrer. Torrential blizzards of riffs and characteristic synths convey the proper arctic moods, accentuated by the occasional acoustic guitar. There’s no immediately brilliant tracks on par with “One Shining Star” or “Carelian Satanist Madness” here, but instead the album keeps a consistently high quality. Predictably there are strong traces of Burzum running through these cold veins, but the primitive sound is expanded upon in longer numbers such as “Dragon’s Egg” and “Nuin-Gaer-Faun”. Transitioning fully into electronic music, “Winter’s Hunger” and the ambient conclusion “Silent Call Of Moon’s Temples” take the Satanic Warmaster-sound away from its comfort-zone, yet still carries the all-important atmospherics.

Purists may turn their noses at the somewhat more accessible sounds of Fimbulwinter, but compared to the repetitious nature of Werwolf’s last few releases this is a change for the better. Rising from the obscure reaches of the underground and into black metal canon rarely comes without a price, but Satanic Warmaster makes the transition without sacrificing musical quality. There is nothing revolutionary going on behind the scenes of Fimbulwinter, but it is an accomplished step forwards for the infernal war-machine and an excellent black metal album.


Written for The Metal Observer