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Dark side of Mother Nature - 76%

MusiqueMashine, June 23rd, 2011

In 2009 Christoph Ziegler, the man behind Vinterriket, graced us with Horizontmelancholie. Most of his releases are in limited edition, each being a unique and individual work of art. This release is no different; here we find a 7 song cd on one side of the disc and a DVD on the other side. Earlier works were subtle mixtures of Dark Ambient and Black Metal. Here we discover more of a Neofolk sound combined with Ambient.

That an artist is willing to venture into different varieties of music is welcoming. Although formed in 1996, it can be said the Vinterriket has not settled for one sound. Each recording is distinctive, and each seems to show growth as Christoph Ziegler as a musician.

To explain this work as a whole would be to describe it as a homage to nature in all its complexities. Acoustic guitars and clean vocals give a pensive but graceful sound to every song. The Ambient touches are used skillfully to provide the wintery forest atmosphere. Each piece conveys the feelings of isolation, coldness and emptiness. That being said there is also an expansive and majestic ambience that is conveyed.

Watching the DVD while listening to the music gave a first-hand look how the songs were to be interpreted. It is a striking composition of video and music. The beautiful scenery of dense forests, lakes, misty snow capped mountains and tumbling streams are enhanced by the somberness of the songs. It’s a hauntingly emotional presentation and solidly performed.

Within all these emotions there is an innocence to all this; not in a frivolous way but truly sincere. While this may be a tribute to the dark side of Mother Nature, there is also an uplifting and sacredness to it as well.


Originally posted at www.musiquemachine.com

A worthwhile trip to take - 75%

autothrall, February 8th, 2010

I am a major fan of the bleak ambient soundscapes created by black metal artists and those surrounding the scene, but in the wake of Mortiis going all darkwave (and Fenriz not releasing any new material from his Neptune Towers project), I have had to turn outside the scene for my fix (though the Cold Meat Industries, etc artists do it as well or better than anyone). The exception is of course the prolific German Vinterriket, who has been responsible for scores of releases since the turn of the century. Demos, splits, EPs, and a good many albums, most of which range from dark, minimal environment to cutting, ultra raw black metal influence. Horizontmelancholie is his 8th full-length release, and good, as it provides an interesting crossroads of his work to date.

Horizontmelancholie retains Vinterriket's heavy use of synthesizers, but there are more lyrics than usual, and more drums and guitars. He's always been largest within the black/folk fanbase, but this album has an appeal which can grasp far beyond the small subsect of listeners into the wider folk fandom. The lyrics are manly and German, but they can create a hypnotic lilt to the tracks as on "Herbstreich" and "Wogen des Firmamentes". My personal favorites here were the almost 80s synth-pop/ambience of "Irrlichterscheinung" and "Waldkult", two of the darker pieces .

Another artist whose production sensibilities have improved with age, this is the hugest sounding record of Vinterriket's career. Gone is the raw gloss of his early years, and to some, this may detract from their enjoyment of the record. To a degree, I prefer his earlier material for its darker tone, but Horizontmelancholie is an interesting album that held my attention for a few listens. I would not listen to this over a Lichtschleier or his previous Zeit-Los:Laut-Los, but it was still a worthwhile trip to take.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Evolution or Experiment? - 95%

CyclicChaos8, July 1st, 2009

Dark ambient / black metal songwriter Christoph Ziegler, sole member of Vinterriket, has been improving his craft for a number of years. Recent albums have been released, some all ambient, some ambient with black metal masterfully interlaced within, but each one honing Ziegler's artistic craft. Some have chastised Ziegler for being stoic, seemingly not content with Ziegler's presumed "if it ain't broke, why fix it" attitude. I, for one, have been consistently astounded by Vinterriket's frequent and magnificent albums, both old and new, and Horizontmelancholie is certainly no exception, and least in terms of quality of output.

For the first time, Vinterriket has chosen to adopt a simultaneous dark ambient and neo-folk sound. Stripped away are any and all signs of Vinterriket's black metal-sprinkled past, replaced with echoing and comforting acoustic guitar picking and chord strumming. Completely gone are harsh and screamed vocals; in their place are warm, rich, spoken and sung lyrics that remind of Agalloch's John Haughm and Amorphis's former vocalist Pasi Koskinen. One thing that does remain, however, are the melancholy, bleeding, cold keyboard tones that define the core of Vinterriket's sound. On this record, even though I'm of the opinion that the Vinterriket machine was never broken, Ziegler has fixed and improved it beyond belief.

Whether you're a fan of much fervor, or new to Vinterriket, this is their magnum opus and deserves a listen. Opener "Schattengerausche" (Shade Noises) and closer "Waldkult" (Forest Cult) are virtually devoid of guitar, instead bookending Horizontmelancholie with chilling ambient compositions. The remaining five songs in between, all epic in scope and lasting up to eight minutes each, take the listener on a journey that is both exhilarating and depressing. All five, including personal favorites "Irrlichterscheinung" (Erring Optical Phenomenon) and "Wogen des Firmamentes" (Waves of the Firmament), weave back and forth between ambient synth interspersed with whispered vocals, to folk singing and chanting layered on top of powerful, heartwrenching keyboard lines.

Whether Horizontmelancholie is the next evolutionary step for Vinterriket, or an experimental album where Vinterriket steps outside their normal genre, is not known. Regardless, Horizontmelancholie is absolutely spellbinding in grandeur, and moreso than on previous offerings, feels like a cold and desolate musical embrace, yet one that feels comforting and safe all the while.

A hermit's soundtrack - 80%

Pestbesmittad, June 19th, 2009

Interesting. In my review of “Gebirgshöhenstille” I lamented about how Vinterriket had been doing the same thing for years and how I wished that something would change. Enter “Horizontmelancholie” and things have really changed. The biggest change must be that the black metal part of the band’s sound has been dropped completely. Gone are the distorted guitars, the black metal vocals and the wintry feel of the music. The distorted guitars have been replaced by acoustic ones. The black metal vocals have been replaced by clean, whispered and narrated ones and the wintry feel of the music by a dark and tranquil summery feel. The change of music style is also reflected by the artwork of this album (at least the version I have): there’s only one massive snow covered mountain in the booklet, all the other pictures seem to be of nighttime summer forests, fields and streams. The only element that has remained unchanged from past Vinterriket releases are the keyboard harmonies but they sound less cold on this album. The keyboard parts don’t consist only of harmonies though, occasionally there are some simple melodies as well.

So, this is a very enjoyable atmospheric dark folk/ambient album. If you’ve already discovered albums like Ulver’s “Kveldssanger” and Empyrium’s “Where at Night the Woodgrouse Plays” and “Weiland”, “Horizontmelancholie” should please you as well with its rather simplistic yet contemplative and relaxing music. Every song is rather slow in tempo and the songs bond together in a continuous fashion. Listening to this album makes me feel like I’m sitting alone by a lake in a forest or on the shore of the sea during a summer night. I’m very far away from any civilization and only the sounds of nature can be hard around me. However, after reading the lyrics I saw that some of them also talk about autumn and the coming onset of winter. This proves that Christoph hasn’t left the colder seasons behind completely but as I already said, the music itself doesn’t have a wintry feel to it. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand German and therefore cannot read the lyrics (all of which are descriptions of nature). The music itself brilliantly conveys the mood and style of the lyrics. I don’t consider there to be any weak tracks but the best are “Herbstreich”, “Irrlichterscheinung” with its delicate ambient parts and “Bergtal” with its overwhelmingly melancholic embrace of the listener. “Schattengeräusche” doesn’t contain any guitar at all and “Waldkult” very little, instead these two tracks focus on the ambient side of Vinterriket.

The vocals are the biggest improvement when compared to previous Vinterriket releases. In the past I’ve had issues with both Christoph’s black metal and clean vocals but on “Horizontmelancholie” he pretty much nails it. The clean vocals are good and stay in key, with the whispers and narration adding a touch of mysticism. This album was a huge surprise from a band that seemed to have stagnated completely. It seems like old dogs can learn new tricks and for Vinterriket this change of style is both extremely radical and successful. If you weren't won over by this band's previous stuff, this album just might the the one to make you change your mind. Now all Christoph needs to do is to come up with some new keyboard harmonies…