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Black metal lullabies. - 62%

ConorFynes, June 30th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Hypnotic Dirge Records

Hypnotic Dirge Records is among the few labels I consider myself to be 'following', so to speak. The label's roster (and subsequent Bandcamp page) is a proverbial treasure trove of extreme and experimental music. Even the less impressive experiences I've had with them have been at least intriguing. I suffered little hesitation, then, when Windbruch were brought to my attention. Even if one-man atmospheric black metal bands have happened to be an all-too common trend in metal this side of the new millennium, Windbruch's latest album No Stars, Only Full Dark was recommended to me with telling enthusiasm. Ignoring the suspiciously odd phrasing of the title, I dove into a song and was immediately arrested by "No More Entry, No More Exit". Even now that it's been quite sometime since first hearing of Windbruch, I cannot recall many times where an atmospheric black metal band drew me in so much with a single track. Even disregarding the full album, "No More Entry, No More Exit" is a brilliantly crafted piece of atmospheric black metal, and one of the best demonstrations of a one-man black metal band's potential to amaze and emote. It's a perfect navigation between dynamics and repetition, cold atmosphere, beauty and whatever else a listener may choose to look for in the genre.

Now, if only the rest of the album moved me that way...

No Stars, Only Full Dark ultimately strikes me as a somewhat underwhelming affair, offset in large part by the valour of the aforementioned standout. I don't believe it's due to a lack of skill or vision either; Windbruch mastermind Rodion Mikhailov sees fit to tackle a wide variety of sounds and styles here. Beyond the 'effective repetition' typical of this particular breed of atmospheric black metal, Windbruch dabbles in ambient and shoegaze (maybe 'darkgaze'- is that a term yet?). As evidenced in the gone-too-soon track "A City on Fire", Windbruch even flies close to the sort of crushing doom metal I'd most closely relate with the UK's Esoteric. Although the stylistic drifts compliment Windbruch's general atmosphere of melancholy, it does feel like the variety has robbed No Stars, Only Full Dark of a clearcut sense of identity.

In spite of the album's stylistic variety, Windbruch actually manages to navigate the individual styles quite well. If there's a song which I'd imagine most closely resembles Mikhailov's musical vision with Windbruch, it's "No Stars". While some atmospheric black metal has a tendency to feel hypnotic and pleasantly dozy, "No Stars" actually sounds like it could pass as a sort of metal lullaby. Hollowed chimes- the likes of which you might expect to hear in a child's nursery- make up the central idea, while dreary guitar chords thunder underneath. While it's no doubt the most aggressive lullaby I've ever heard, "No Stars" possesses a very somnolent quality, virtually unheard of in any of the metal sub-families. As I've mentioned, "A City on Fire" half-heartedly flirts with funeral doom; Windbruch actually has some success with creating a convincing atmosphere with this notably more malevolent sound, but the song is over in three minutes- far too short for it to feel like any of Windbruch's doomy potential was even slightly tapped into. On the other end of the scale (both stylistically and length-wise), "Neswa-Pawuk" is an overdrawn venture into Les Discrets-style shoegaze, complete with sullenly garbled vocals and innocuous instrumentation aplenty.

I'm left getting the impression Rodion Mikhailov has some great ideas for Windbruch; too many in fact. Funeral doom, atmospheric black metal, shoegaze and some brilliant ambient touches could have come together wonderfully in more focused hands, but with this second album it still feels like Windbruch is a project in the midst of getting its identity together. He's a skilled vocalist (his black metal rasp is considerably throatier than the genre's average), his instrumentation and production are both effective, and in spite of the album's consistently frigid atmosphere, there's no doubt that Rodion's ambition burns brightly. No Stars, Only Full Dark demonstrates a partial realization of what that ambition can produce. To unlock that potential, Windbruch either needs to capitalize on one of these styles, or find a way to make it all come together smoothly. For the meantime, I'm left only partially convinced.

Originally reviewed for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Depressive Black Metal? Well, not quite... - 80%

TheAntagonist, March 21st, 2014

Hailing from the icy hinterlands of Russia, WindBruch offer No Stars, Only Full Dark on hypnotic Dirge Records; an interesting, yet intriguing take on depressive black metal. Windbruch is the brainchild of sole member Illuzi Optice. One man bands continue to pique my interest and this one certainly warranted a closer inspection.

The tag of depressive black metal may be a bit misleading as it can conjure up negative connotations. American acts Leviathan and Xasthur spring to mind with their bleak tone and shrieked vocals of hopelessness—let me stress that this album has none of that. It seems to fall more in line with what Woods of Desolation are trying to accomplish. The riffs are cyclical and hypnotic; songs are long and measured like on “No More Entry, No More Exit”. There is a sense of foreboding but it is downplayed by cleaner sounding guitars and tight production.

“No Stars” opens with a music box sample that sustains through the song and a haunting synth that works well to accent the mood. This song is a great methodically paced builder which merges perfectly with a well-placed crunchy bit of heaviness. Most of the album is instrumental and “Flashback to my Lake” is an ideally condensed example of the mood being set for the album. “Only Full Dark” can be described as a slowed down version of Type O Negative’s “We Hate Everyone”, closing with a befitting wave effect.

“Neswa-Pawuk” is one of the few songs that contain lyrics. It is another marathon of a song and very hard to categorize as it contains but a hint of metal—distorted guitars eventually make an appearance, along with a moderately heavy build up to the end. This album is unquestionably a chameleon of sorts; constantly shifting styles and leaving you guessing.

No Stars, Only Full Dark is quite an intriguing release. There is a lot being thrown at the listener and it should be treated like a fine wine, given time to breathe before being re-ingested. The depressive black metal title aside, this album may be a gift for some looking for a diversion from the norm. It is very intricate and will unveil many secrets with repeat listens (especially on headphones). The exploration of this album will be well worth your time. No Stars, Only Full Dark didn’t just come out of left field—it appears to have come from out of this world.

Originally Written for Adequacy.net:
http://www.adequacy.net/2014/03/windbruch-no-stars-only-full-dark/

A juxtaposition of oddities - 65%

oneyoudontknow, February 16th, 2014

I am amazed how little attention and energy is being spent on such a trifle as a band name or a title of an album. As there is all to often no immediate necessity to rush things in terms of a physical release, which in this respect has even seen a delay, it opens the questions on why this negligence is indeed necessary? It seems superfluous somehow.

The opening and closing of “No Stars, Only Full Dark” are some kind of white noise texture which comes over as a crack in the fabric of reality, through which the music is or has been allowed to shine. If there are no stars and if the darkness becomes overbearing, as it enwraps everything and everyone, this band provides a glimpse into a different sphere, to a different place and space. What unfolds then is a confusing set of elements and the more the music presents itself over the course of the album, the more the listener might be taken aback. Even though the Metal Archives lists Windbruch as depressive black metal right now, such is actually a misnomer and unable to cover all of the facets that happen to be on this album. For instance, the vocals are rather atypical in their expression and style or rather would be commonly associated with the aforementioned genre. Post-metal creates less of a headache, because the focus is rather on the non-metal part than vice versa.

Even though there are undoubtedly metal parts on this album, in style and sound it feels somewhat different. Somehow it seems to continue where the band left of on the preceding split album Silentium! Rather atmospheric guitars, a melancholic atmosphere and a certain steadiness in the progression of the motives are important then any emphasis on metal guitars or characteristic metal elements. At times, all is being lead by a melody, whose part is then accompanied by metal guitars and not the other way around; the more the album progresses, the more the music shifts into this direction. Furthermore, the focal point of it all is never where someone would expect it to be.

Aside from this, considering the low amount of vocals throughout the release, it should be obvious on how the shares are distributed and on what to expect. There is a childish touch to the music, which wakes memories of a different band: Alcest. Of course, in terms of the quality, level of craftsmanship and so on, both bands play in different leagues, but the Russian one has something in common with the French one. There is a bewildering loftiness in several of the compositions, which is created by a very basic as well as minimalist set of elements; often not guitars but keyboards lead the melodies. Windbruch keep it simple, rely on the use of a good amount of repetition and sound textures in order to create the atmosphere. It is therefore of no surprise to experience as distinct steadiness and flow in the progression of the motives, which is seldom disrupted in one way or another. This brings in another genre: dark ambient. Noise and textural stylistics point towards this genre, even though it plays only a minor role in the concept.

Even after at least thirty spins this album still leaves a somewhat strange taste behind. What is it that the music is all about? What is it? How should one add all things together? It is a fascinating mess. A tiring rollercoaster. It is decaffeinated coffee with some rest of caffeine on top of it. Praise and hate seem to be close to each other in terms of this output.

Confident and self-assured BM / post-rock fusion - 87%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, November 29th, 2013

No Stars, Only Full Dark ... I take that to mean that from here on in, Windbruch's not messing about doodling with experimental effects and ambience ... this is going to be full-on depressive melodic black metal, intense and aggressive, yet with moments of reflection and subtlety. On first listen, this is what we get: a raw and sometimes angry music, ragged and sharp in tone with a full bass backing, shaped into actual songs edged with delicate ambient sounds and tones that add touches of ice coldness. There is no doubt, Windbruch (headed by Iluzi Optice) means business and is in for the long haul out of far-distant Siberia and to conquer the world!

As on his debut, IO / Windbruch brings skill and imagination plus an ability to learn from mistakes he might have made earlier in his career to craft an album of self-contained and clearly defined songs that feature as much cold space-ambient synth, field recordings of nature and what might be termed "soundtrack music" as they do raw suicidal black metal. The path "No Stars ..." might not sound all that different for the most part from what other one-man or two-men BM projects have done but it's best at this early stage in his career for IO to get the balance between a more commercial style of BM rock pop and his more abstract experimental tendencies right and to his liking, and to gain the support of a loyal fan-base, before he starts stretching the formula to his own ends.

The album begins strongly with "No More Entry, No More Exit" (taken together, the track titles suggest an arc of being enticed by the city, ending up being trapped there, reaching one's nadir and experiencing a crisis) which is actually the second track, the first track being an extended introduction. The music is usually robust and hard-hitting; as the album progresses, more ambience, especially at the start and end of each track, and melodic keyboard are brought in, and the album becomes more post-BM in style. Vocals, where they appear, are upfront in the music and are deep and gravelly, almost death-metal in style. The tension builds up through each track and flows into the next; ambient passages relieve some of the tension but not all of it so the suspense and momentum are maintained.

Later tracks like "A City on Fire" and "Only Full Dark" become ponderous and include quite cold, forlorn space-ambient melodies and spoken-voice recordings. There is a definite urban-blues / post-rock feel which might seem surprising for a Russian BM band, especially one so far away from Europe and North America. The latter track throws away actual music and becomes entirely experimental in most of its second half; its reliance on near-inaudible drone rumble beneath a Russian-language radio monologue is daring. "Neswa-Pawuk" has a dreamy shoegazer atmosphere, a bit like a harder and more ponderous version of Alcest. From this moment on, the album has a sunnier and more positive outlook even if its central protagonist is still stuck in a hard urban environment.

The album is very self-assured and IO demonstrates confidence in composing in BM / ambient / post-rock fusions. Most songs are well-defined with some allowance for experimentation. There is something to please most people here, though I'm sure IO didn't set out deliberately to please everyone. At this time of writing, the album had been released independently by Windruch; it really deserves a much wider hearing. Let's hope it's just a matter of time before a label picks up this recording.