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Desolate, melancholic mastery - 92%

concertmusic, September 28th, 2006

From the first sounds of the string quartet at the start of the first track, it becomes immediately clear that this 2004 Winds release "The Imaginery Direction of Time" will not be easy listening. Nonetheless, for those of you willing to be challenged while enjoying your music, there is a fascinating, if eerie, experience before us.

The material on this CD is unique in many ways. The sound quality of the CD is perfect, and the musicians in this band are artists in the full sense of the word, which also encompasses their somewhat eclectic and eccentric music. The description of neoclassical progressive metal is as fitting as we'll probably get - but be warned that there is no other band in this genre that sounds anything like this Winds, at least in my experience.

The emphasis needs to be square on the classical part of the aforementioned tag. Almost every track either starts with a string quartet playing by itself, or a solo classical piano leading off with quiet, melancholic notes. The string quartet is readily audible during every track, and forms the basis of the funereal sound ever-present here, in that they play in a minor key almost throughout. The clean, very well done vocals add to the grey, dreary mood, as they stay in a narrow and somber range.

There can also be no doubt about the progressive aspects of the genre description, which is very much true particularly in the context of the guitars, both classical and metal. The guitar soli are complex, virtuosic passages, and even though we find far fewer tempo changes than is usual for progressive work, and no mood changes away from the desolation to speak of, there are the multiple layers of music that build the sound of Winds. The rhythm guitars, bass, and drums are very well incorporated, and add to the depressive, dark sound.

At times, this work brings to mind Agalloch's latest CD, which has received very high praise - this Winds offering, which is the predecessor by two years to the Agalloch release, is, in my opinion, head over heels the better investment.