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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 The distorted guitars have been replaced by acoustic ones. The black metal vocals have been replaced by clean, whispered and narrated ones and the wintry feel of the music by a dark and tranquil summery feel.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…