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A hymn to winter - 80%

Pestbesmittad, March 7th, 2008

Wow, a major improvement from “Winterschatten”! Not so much in the production department but definitely when it comes to the song writing and structuring. “Der Letzte...” is another ambient black metal album by Vinterriket and it’s certainly one of Christoph’s best of this kind. I feel that on this album he’s truly able to deliver the wintry feeling that Vinterriket obviously strives for, plus there aren’t any bad tracks here.

On this album there are more metal tracks than ambient ones, six metal tracks and three ambient tracks to be precise. This ratio suits me very well, since I find many of Vinterriket’s ambient songs boring. An even better thing is that all the ambient songs are under four minutes long. This fact prohibits them from getting boring, instead they act just like I feel they should: as moments of majestic tranquillity that let the listener feel as if he or she is slowly gliding over snow covered mountain tops like an eagle. This leaves the metal tracks as the main attraction, and rightfully so.

Another major improvement lies in the vocal department. Unlike on “Winterschatten”, the vocals aren’t very low in the mix and they’re also not as high-pitched and desperate sounding either. The vocals are heavily distorted though (quite a few black metal bands use this effect it seems) but I think vocals like these fit the music. They blend in with the fuzzy guitars to create a very cold feeling. I recommend listening to this album with headphones because you’ll hear the guitars better then plus you’ll notice some nature effects that at least I missed before I listened to this album with headphones. The keyboards are huge, like enormous white cumulus clouds. They tend to swallow the guitars a bit but this effect can also be avoided pretty much if you use headphones. The difference to most of Christoph’s purely ambient recordings is that here the keyboards are more varied. Tracks like e.g. “Nachtgeflüster” (“Nightwhispers”) and “Winternacht - Kalte Schwärze Im Bann Der Silbernen Sonne” (“Winternight – Cold Darkness Under the Spell of the Silver Sun”) even contain some simple yet good keyboard melodies that bring a distant feeling to the music.

The production is pretty much the same as on Christoph’s other ambient black metal albums. Without the massive keyboards I can tell that the music would sound quite thin, so fortunately there’s a lot of keyboards. However, I still cannot help thinking that this album would have sounded even better with real drums, thicker guitars and a more professional production overall. I think that these three factors would give the music more power. “Der letzte Winter - Der Ewigkeit Entgegen” is a very visual album and truly music for the cold season of the year. The songs flow very naturally throughout the album, the next one always taking off where the previous one ended and carrying the listener further into the frozen landscape. At the end of the day I also find this music pretty original and, well, beautiful too. On this album Christoph finally manages to assemble the building blocks of his music in such an order that I’m pleased and cannot find any real weaknesses.

Die Poesie der Natur - 90%

ImTheMosaic, October 10th, 2006

Hier ist Vinterriket's engaging work, "Der letzte Winter - Der Ewigkeit entgegen." A phrase on his official webpage states, "Exploring the darker side of Nature." This is a perfect summation of his aesthetic. As, in the day, butterflies and the song of birds are heard throughout glades and vast forests, by nightfall Nature's shadow is cast, with silence and stillness all-pervading.

It is into these shadowed crevices that Vinterriket expands. This is an artist interwoven with the Nocturnal, and beings of night make up a culture unto themselves. You can sense this from his titles, often themed around blackness and Night, but his music makes this understanding immediate. Any day-time inspiration is most likely within dense fogs blanketing the forest's eternity, absent of any solar warmth and radiance.

Beautiful ambient pieces weave into the metal-influenced songs on this album. I say "metal-influenced" rather than metal because Vinterriket's metal is a unique form. Keyboards are overstated, and often are primary to the melody. The guitar track is distorted but backgrounded, distant, forming a role often played by synths in metal. Thus, the synthesizer is the main creative force behind Vinterriket's ambience.

And atmosphere is an undeniable aspect of this album. As mentioned in the quote in the first paragraph of this review, and as discussed in a review of Vinterriket's newest album, his music is a triumphant praise of Nature. Eery, rapturous, harsh, and in many ways unwelcoming, these musical qualities mirror the twilight of nature known to anyone who has spent the night in a forest far from the intrusive hands of humans. I wandered near a forest at night recently, and attempting to listen to this album was too much----I intuited an infinitely ancient presence and awareness emanating from the nearby redwoods, and there was sinister laughter directed towards the arrogant Homo Sapiens contained in this awareness of antiquity. Or perhaps my imagination was a bit over-stimulated by Vinterriket's Nightsong, as Nature's 'darker side' caused all my hairs to stand on end--

There is a sublime, peaceful aura surrounding the strictly ambient compositions. Fluid and subtle, they emanate as gentle streams, or as the gradual dissolution of dusktime fog. This sense of subtlety and grace is reminiscent of Burzum's "Hlidskjalf," and both albums are heavily influenced by Nature's beauty, sometimes kind and tender, othertimes merciless, destructive, demonstrating how quickly it will demolish what has been born.

The vocals on this album are of a harsh and subdued variety. It seems he lessened their volume on the mix to emphasize the melody shifts of the synthesizers and the 'buzz-saw' sound of the guitars. As the album progresses, each song follows this similar pattern, which leads to hypnosis but also a repetition at times. It is somewhat formula-driven as far as song structure, and thus it does seem repetitive halfway through. However, the absolute crescendos of awe and might on other tracks redeem this album, and show the originality and integrity of his musical vision. The more subtle aspects of his symphonies are to be found in the latest album, "Lichtschleier." But nonetheless this album is an overwhelming ode to Nature, and to the stillness of night.