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Destiny? - 89%

aglasshouse, June 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1990, CD, Future Shock

Winter embody every negative aspect of the season they name themselves after: the coldness, the darkness, and the immaculate freezing blanket that covers the ground day and night. Speaking as someone who lives in New York, where this band originates from, the winters here are nothing to scoff about. Though perhaps not as gruelingly whittling as Winter may make it out to be, it ain't fun, in simple terms. So why not make an album about it? I can only presume that Winter's 1990 debut Into Darkness is that album. Maybe.

Doom metal is a genre that fits well with a theme of winter because of it's ability to convey the aforementioned somber themes particularly well. However where the true magic comes from is the fusion of death metal in the mix to make it a truly hallowing release. The muddied, very lo-fi guitar of Stephen Flam (whom I heard of funnily enough with his work with the obscure industrial outfit Thorn in 1995) contrasts beautifully yet unsettlingly with the scanty, spacey keyboards by Tony Pinnisi.

This comes mainly from the post-punk, college-like recording quality of Into Darkness, which walks just on the edge of being black metal levels of quality and professional, clean cut work. It really makes the album shift around at times, especially when it comes to either having the different instruments meld into a single, trudging unit or when it comes time for things like the vocals to stick out from the rest. The rollicking drums of Joe Gonclaves are perhaps the best part of the mix, having a modest yet not an overbearing amount of fills at any particular time, yet still having a massive weight to them any time they're prominent.

My personal favorite parts of this album come from the tracks like 'Goden', where bassist John Alman's death-like gut-bellows (which I like so much because they don't sound as silly as one might think) coincide fantastically with the droning guitar and bass and the previously mentioned rolling drumming. This especially works on one of my favorite tracks, 'Destiny', where the pace is kicked up a notch into grooving trot. This as well as interspersed returns to a slow, doomy atmosphere lend this song and the album as a whole to be wonderfully quick-witted and able to keep you on your feet and interested.

On the flip-side though many of Into Darkness' slow parts are its weak points- sometimes the hard-to-tell-apart-the-instruments recording style of the album makes the slow parts almost mediocre in a way, at least when vocals aren't there to lend a hand. Some of these slow parts have a minimalist style that broadside harshly with the complex stuff that either precede or succeed them, making them sound pretty misplaced and often misused. In all though these negative areas are few-and-far-between and rarely deter the fun and enjoyable ones.

Winter, in my honest opinion, is a much better example of good death-doom than many of their contemporaries (yes, maybe even My Dying Bride). Definitely a stellar release deserving of much more attention.

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part 5 - 100%

droneriot, December 29th, 2014

Even in a review series about some of the very best metal albums of all time, a series which is obviously to be loaded with superlatives in every review, there's bound to be one album which stands out the most. And it doesn't matter into how many parts I decided to divide this series - I picked tenrather arbitrarily - but if it were only five, or up to fifty, this one album would always stand out above all others. This album is, of course, Winter's Into Darkness, the pinnacle, the crown jewel in the history of all forms of heavy metal, for all times to come.

"Words cannot describe..." is a phrase that is not only strangely overused in reviews of such amazing works of art, but also contradictory to the purpose of a review itself, since using words to describe is exactly what one attempts at doing in this endeavour. It is however the first phrase to pop into my mind when beginning to try to wrap my mind around how to get the mind-blowing quality of this album across to the reader. I feel like an astronomer who tries to describe the universe in a few drab technical terms, when in reality it takes a lifetime of internalising all its aspects to realise just how amazing and impressive is in its entirety. Into Darkness, likewise, is something I can only sketch out in a few well-intentioned but never sufficient phrases without ever scratching the surface of its grandness, and no potential listener reading this review will grasp the magnitude of what was put on record here by a few general descriptions of the elements that make up the album's sound.

It is no coincidence that I chose an analogy to describing the universe when beginning to delve into an attempted characterisation of this album, because as the universe is unimaginably big in spacial dimensions, Into Darkness is the same in audial ones. There is a gravity to every note played on this album that evokes images of solar system-sized giants pounding down on planets with star-sized hammers. It feels like the perfect embodiment of the sheer heaviness bands have been going for ever since Black Sabbath played the very first notes of their eponymous song, and that only Winter have reached in this magnitude, and one that can never be surpassed. The amazing production of course does a great job of accomplishing this, with its thick and massive guitar tone and the accompanying strong and heavy presence of the bass. But the major credit lies, as always, with the songwriting, as no producer or engineer has ever created a masterpiece in music, only songwriters have.

How to make heavy metal in all its diversity of subgenres as heavy as possible has been a quest from the start, with a myriad of approaches to achieve this feat, but no band ever succeeded to an extent as Winter did right here, and no one ever will again. The ingredients are fairly simple. Due credit has to be given to obvious influences such as Celtic Frost (in the more uptempo parts) or Amebix (when things slow down), but what Winter achieve here is primarily the result of their own, simple, straight-forward, but utterly effective songwriting choices. Every chord is played with just the right amount of power behind it, and sustained for just the right length, arranged into riffs in which every chord feels to up the ante and increase the heaviness of its preceeding chord. The sheer massiveness of these riffs is almost surpassed by how dark an atmosphere they create, something that only adds to their gravity. It once again brings back the analogy to the universe, and objects that are so massive that not even light can escape them.

Not to be outdone by the riffs, the rhythm section acts with the same remorseless dedication to flattening the listener into residue the size of atoms or smaller. The pounding, warlike drumming in particular is a showcase exercise in brutal efficiency. The analogies in my mind vary between a hammer and an anvil, and the chains of a tank, but either of them at a cosmic size. Sparse keyboards help add keep the density intact at any and all times, leaving the listener no reprieve from the suffocating darkness and gravity of the audial maelstrom created. And above all tower the vocals.

What John Alman delivers here is a performance unrivaled in the entirety of the heavy metal genre. Appearing as standard Celtic Frost-inspired barks on the surface, only lowered by about an octave, they reveal an unimaginable depth of emotional power after repeated listens. And trust me, once your mind properly processes this album, there will be many, many repeated listens. Alman's performance creates a variety of mental images, from a war commander of an army of some form of gigantic, horrid creatures ready to conquer the universe and plunge all civilisations across its span into perpetual darkness, to a mad preacher of some ancient cosmic religion shouting sermons of an impending doom for all that lives in the entirety of space and time. The feeling they create is absolutely huge and suffocating, and leave no doubt that the end of all is nigh, and nothing can be done to prevent it.

The conclusion brings me back to the initial phrase of words being unable to describe, and while I may have done my best for my words to accomplish anything nearing a worthy description, I must live with the realisation that it is simply not possible to put into words what only many repeated listens of the album can achieve. If there ever was any album that needed to be heard, and needed to be heard as often and intensively as possible, it is Winter's Into Darkness. This is the essential metal classic that requires a spot in every self-respecting heavy metal connoisseur's collection. Were I forced to pick a best album of the entire genre at gunpoint, I would name this as my first choice without hesitation.


--- Originally written for http://droneriot.blogspot.com

Souls on Ice - 90%

Kopfwurm, November 12th, 2011

A biologist called D’Arcy Thompson once wrote a book called On Growth and Form about the mathematics that governs the growth and form of plants and animals. Mammalian skulls, for example, although they may sometimes look very different, are related to each other by very simple rules of transformation: you can turn a saber-tooth tiger’s skull into a mammoth’s, and vice versa, by altering a few fundamental variables. And that is, in effect, what evolution did as these two animals evolved from the common mammalian ancestor. There are common ancestors in culture too: rock’n’roll underlies the many sub-genres of heavy metal, and the two extremes – the saber-tooth tiger and the mammoth – of heavy metal are probably black metal and doom metal. Both, in their different ways, are about speed: rock’n’roll is still there, but in black metal it’s been speeded UP a lot and in doom metal it’s been slowed DOOOWWWN a lot. The effects of these transformations in different directions are startling: despite their common origins in rock’n’roll, black metal and doom metal, like saber-tooth tigers and mammoths, are utterly different beasts.

I can’t recommend any black metal bands in particular to illustrate the point, because black metal doesn’t appeal to me and I know very little about it. I can definitely recommend a doom metal band, however: this one, the American band Winter, who took the death metal of Celtic Frost circa To Mega Therion and altered the variable of speed to profound effect. Appropriately enough, Winter then went extinct, but no-one interested in extreme metal should neglect their music. Black metal, as say Marduk’s Panzerdivision Marduk might suggest, is like being crushed by a tank at top speed; doom metal as purveyed by Winter is like being crushed by a glacier at top speed. In other words, it’s very heavy, it’s very cold, and it’s very, very slow – songs to watch the earth freeze to the core by. Unlike black metal or death metal the lyrics are ecological and political rather than Satanic or medical, but the vocals still owe a lot to death metal and are probably weaker for it: they’re the quickest way Winter’s music could have been improved. Bass, drums, and guitar don’t need much improvement, but the experimental noise of the hidden final track doesn’t fit with them or the vocals. You shouldn’t listen to this album in summer or by day or with the heating on and you probably won’t be able to listen to it repeatedly, but if you like, or want to hear if you like, doom metal you should definitely listen to it.

The Greatest Doom Album Ever !!! - 100%

hellhippie, February 18th, 2009

With all the hype on doom bands and doom metal that's around these days sometimes it is essential to understand where the genre began and who pioneered it . Now understandably when discussing this subject the most purist of metal heads tend to gravitate towards "Black Sabbath" as the undisputed fore fathers . I would absolutely agree that every true doom band or album has a blatantly obvious early "Sabbath" influence .

With that being said fast forward eleven to thirteen years to the start of the under ground scene . The bands coming out were singing and playing heavier than ever . The list goes on and on and I'm not going to regurgitate some boring redundant list on who the true pioneers in the early stages of the scene were but some bands do need to be mentioned here . Some of the obvious greats emerging had to find their own sound and feel in a scene in its infancy stages .

While there were (and still are) out right copy cat bands, of all the stand out acts when thinking of aspects of the doom sound "Hellhammer" and later "Celtic Frost" have to be mentioned . Tom Warrior and company produced a sound unlike anything heard before . The start of doom as we know it today . Even if it was only in sections of their songs they were probably one of the first to execute this "sound" so well .

Once again fast forward a few more years to the mid eighties and early nineties and what we now have is a well developed scene structure albeit still extremely under ground . You had your thrash bands (yes this was an underground music genre) . You had you death metal bands . You had your grind bands . You had your bands that mixed any combination of the previous elements to produce or contribute their piece in a developed but fledgling movement of what was basically an amazing time to be a metal head . Every band almost trying to out do the others in both heaviness and speed or a nice variety of both . Bands came and bands went as the music progressed into what we all know today as our beloved true underground metal scene .

Some left obscure little demo tapes . While some left hours and hours of the greatest music ever . Whatever they left us as metal heads as a whole usually we hold near and dear to our unwavering hearts . This is unquestionably one of those bands for me .

Arriving on the scene in the late eighties most of my circle of friends knew of this bands demo and probably at the time of the release of "Into Darkness" were about ready to never hear it again because of the unfathomable amount of times i used to play it . "Stop playing that fucking tape" they would say . "Didn't we already listen to that an hour ago?" they would yell . Trust me this was a pattern for two years . I would then calmly slip the demo tape back into whatever boom box was blasting at the time when they weren't paying close attention and the pattern would repeat itself until I would just cave in to my friends wanting to hear another band . Often I would preach to them as all maniacal metal fans would about how this was the heaviest demo ever and we would fight about what band was the heaviest and so on . Not unlike most groups of friends who were bonded by their undying passion for all things heavy . Then I heard the news Winter was recording an album ! This would prove my point . This was going to change what heavy was . There was no way this band would become part of the long list of bands that "pussied out" with the release of their debut album . Lastly this would shut my friends mouths up once and for all I thought to myself and I waited eagerly for the day to come where I could buy every single vinyl press of what was surely to be the undisputed champ of heavy releases . I was right .

This is beyond heavy . Truly almost inconceivably heavy . I have waited a long long time to try and put into words exactly what this great band and great album have meant to me over the years . If your taking the time to read this review and truly understand the time frame of the release (1990) I will try my best to justify all of my previous statements of what we have here and then some .

Starting off this album is the intro "Oppression Freedom" which by all accounts to the unknowing listener will almost feel like the equivalent of suffocating yourself with a plastic bag while listening to a record that is caught on a groove skipping over and over . Heavy thick power chords are held as the repetition of the main riff gets the listener moving at a crawl . The first thing prominent about what you are about to hear is the utter almost shocking heaviness of the guitar tone . This is truly an unsurpassed triumph (even by today's standards) of the heaviness of releases that dominate the underground scene .

Then there's the drum kit . I have never heard a drum tone recorded on anything in my life that is quite like this . The drums as well as the drummer just have to be heard to be believed . Picture a losing army marching back to a war torn, snow covered, bombed out city they once called home and these are what the drum beats would sound feel like . This drum sound is dominating but not over bearing throughout every second of this album . Remember this is a doom band and if the beat gets boring the whole album will not mesh well . The drums are the glue that holds the whole release together and not for one second do they get boring or "plain" in any description of the word . This drummer nails every song . There is an eerie echo on every slam of the kit . The cymbals are perfectly placed and a perfect sounding accent to the gloomy suppressing feel of this record .

The album starts off with "Servants Of The Warsmen" which is as fast a song as your going to get here . A nice little "pick me up" for lack of a better phrase from what you just went through with the intro . The vocals kick off with the singer screaming "Rise" as you almost feel dominated by the power that is felt with every word he sings . My god can this really be that heavy you say ? Yes it can, and is . The vocals on every song give one a feeling of hopelessness and despair unsurpassed by any band before and any band since . His voice is a sullen grimacing reminder of all hope being lost . This is the soundtrack to all lost battles and wars . Every dirty disgusting moment of humanity at its worse . Every song is sung perfectly and every word describes in an almost grandiose "Knights of the Round Table" sort of way the situation that this band is singing about .

The songs on the album compliment the previously heard ones perfectly in a succession of strung along perfection . "Goden" is a soul torturing masterpiece with over bearing maleficent tones . A slight craziness can be heard here as the guitarist shreds a solo at the end over the soul crushing bass line and monstrous drum kit .

A great doom album wouldn't be perfect with out another suffocating slow instrumental that builds ever so delicately before smashing the listener with a baseball bat in the teeth . That's where "Power And Might" comes in . Keeping with the unmatched cold grim feel of this full body of work "Destiny" chugs along at snails pace and reminds the listener of the intro to the album . Black starless nights in the hills of Siberia come to mind while listening . Did i mention this album is cold ? This album is cold .

Second to last has got to be the heaviest song I have ever heard in my life "Eternal Frost" .(its a toss up with Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death") This song plain and simple is the epitome of perfection . The bending disgustingly gloomy riff that dominates this song is perfect throughout . Perfect ! So crushing in it's delivery . So masterful in it's creation . Complimented with a perfect rhythm section vocals and lyrics . Heavy "Celtic Frost" influences prevail here . This one track is the be-all end-all of doom songs for yours truly . It describes with one phrase the beautiful coldness death and doom metal has always been about to me and i quote "Hope and desire fade , Fury in the emperor's eyes, Cast here for eternity, Season of the dead" . When this is sung in this song with the conviction that it has its almost sends chills through the listener . Like I said this album is fucking cold .

Last but not least is the final track on the album which also clocks in at almost ten minutes . Just when you thought you would be getting a break from the freezing blanketing dark overall feel of this album this band isn't done quite yet . The title track is one last long heavy drawn out warning to the listener of forgotten tales of old . Grimacing malevolent tones are prevailant once again and why not, they are peppered throughout this amazing album . Super slow and dominated but an almost drugged out feel this is just another song that is perfectly executed on this slab of perfection .

Everything is perfect on Winter's "Into Darkness" just like it was on their demo . Just like it was when i had the opportunity to see this band play live in 1989 in Long Island New York . There is not much left to say but this .This my friends is the perfect doom album by the perfect doom band at a time when no one really knew what the fuck doom was . HAIL FUCKING WINTER ,,,,,,,, there is none heavier .

The ultimate in cold and dark heaviness - 95%

MahaDoom, May 11th, 2008

Winter. Into Darkness. Eternal Frost. These three terms – the band name, the album name, the "single" name – totally express what this is all about...a fucking hopeless portrayal of an utterly bleak and devastated earth! Atomic bombs have fallen, it's a post-apocalyptic nightmare and the whole world has lost!

This New York based cult band played a highly original type of Doom/Death/Thrash and for sure has left quite an impression on a few members of the worldwide metal and maybe hardcore scenes, however, they remain a band not known to many and adored by even less. Which is quite understandable when one considers the crushing heaviness, the killing slowness, the ultra down-tuned and low frequency filled sound (at least 5 notes...in 1990, even before Cathedral!) as well as the merciless negativity and dark coldness of this record. It is bloody indescribable how extreme this record is!
Quite obviously strongly influenced by Celtic Frost, Hellhammer and Amebix, Winter still came out to be a totally unique band, and of course they suffered the fate of many such bands. They kept an underdog and broke up way too soon. Which is a shame especially considering the few flaws of this otherwise fantastic milestone in music history. These would be found in the field of production, which is not that surprising, since it very likely was of low-budgeted nature. This is definitely not to make the all in all very pleasing sound appear in a negative light, it's just that the drums and vocals are too much on top of the mix and the guitar gets buried in the super lowness of the sound. With such improvements in the production and more experience as an active band, who knows what they might have been able to deliver next?!

With Into Darkness they bequeathed a record of high importance for the development of rock music – together with EyeHateGod, Cathedral, Disembowelment and Thergothon they created extreme Doom Metal! But Winter do not sound like one specific type of metal, it's unlike anything else and I don't know any other band that surpassed their slowly grinding, totally dark and fucking evil heaviness...and I am an avid and well-educated fan of Doom Metal and other extreme stuff…maybe Burning Witch and Khanate might be equals, but that's it pretty much – in nearly 20 years!
Here it is also interesting to draw a comparison with Black Metal which often is considered the most cold, dark and evil kind of metal or even music in general. Well, some Black Metal bands might appear more maniacal due to their somewhat chaotic hysteria and to some degree they achieve to create some evilness since most of them strive really hard, but with Winter it’s just true and natural, they don’t want it out of principle, they just deliver it. And the same goes for the darkness and coldness. Where especially Norway orientated Black Metal bands might have this Northern coldness like winds over deserted mountains, which on sunny days might still cause warm feelings for the beauty of nature, Winter bring about the destruction filled nuclear holocaust, where death is terminal, coldness mechanical and the sky remains grey and polluted.

Into Darkness should be of interest to any fan of really heavy, dark and brutal metal, but supposedly it will always remain a rarity in record collections. Fortunately, those who understand enjoy the more.

Funereality, or the Aftermath of "War Pigs" - 93%

aspersive_worm, January 26th, 2007

At the time this dropped, it was advertised by Nuclear Blast as a "Five megaton blast of pulverizing doom", and they used this description advisedly. Doom metal was a phenomenon of the mid-to-later 80's, cf. Pentagram, St. Vitus, Trouble, et al., but with "Into Darkness", Winter unfolded an entirely new tableaux of desolation which ultimately launched a major genre-identity crisis over just what WAS "true doom metal". Was it the traditional rock/blues based Sabbathy approach, or was it the gutteral vocals and Hellhammerish chord progressions slowed down to an agonizingly snail-paced trudge? Certainly, this release helped to fuel that debate due to its undeniable influence on just about every "doom" release that followed (Winter rates a mention in the thanks list of "Forest of Equilibrium", as well as being a major ingredient in the sonic formulae of Anathema, My Dying Bride, Skepticism, etc.).


Aside from its continuing, and not merely historical, significance, what we have here is an emaciated husk of primitive death/thrash metal, owing much to Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, although the primeval influence of Tony Iommi is still evident around the fringes. The primary shock that most listeners in 1990 would have felt is due to the unceasingly slow tempo and infrequency of chord progression. Excepting the one instance of "Power and Might", which does break out into a semblance of "Circle of the Tyrants"-styled gallop, the tracks on this album wind themselves out painfully, crawling blindly,aimlessly forward like a wounded snake.

"Slowed down death metal" is the tag most detractors of this style would slander this with, but such phrases don't quite cover it. There is definitely a "doomed" vibe present here, inasmuch as each succeeding cut burrows deeper into evocations of the destruction wrought by total war, and the inevitable and ensuing aftermath of hunger, desolation, and hopelessness. Refer to the cover art, which pictures a pair of refugees absconding from a block of bombed-out flats with what meager possessions they can carry away on their backs. Rather than illustrating some Bolt Thrower-ish parable on the glory and honour of combat, Winter takes to the road paved by "War Pigs" and "Electric Funeral", constantly reminding the listener of the futility inherent in the never-ending cycle of industrial greed, mindless consumerism, and ignorance that ultimately ends in war.


As for the tracks themselves, what you get here is a trebly, overdriven, and primitively produced ordinance dump of 16 rpm Frost riffs, grunted vocals, and a bass tone reminiscent of Motorhead or even Sodom. "Oppression Freedom" opens the album with a grotesque martial fanfare, delivered at the irnoic pace of a funeral procession. It's basically two riffs, repeated three times each, though it takes five minutes to do so. Howling feedback is overlaid atop the mix, swooping in and out, forming a masterful evocation of chilling winter winds. From there, it's one baleful, misanthropic dirge, one after the other, sometimes with clear transitions between tracks, sometimes not.

Although this release has had, as noted, an obvious and indisputable influence on all succeeding genres of "doom", especially "death/doom" and "funeral" doom, the newcomer may wish to tread cautiously on these ancient proving grounds. Here, they will find no trace of "poetic melancholy", complete with whispered narration,droning violins or lilting female mourns. This is strictly metal in conception and execution, regardless of its (once) novel properties. However, those seeking the roots of the aforesaid genres, or simply wishing to indulge in forty five minutes of unceasing snail-paced, leadfooted drudgery will certainly feel obliged to own this. Eternal frost, indeed!

Turtle Metal - 82%

PowerMetalGuardian, May 23rd, 2004

Alright, alright I know! Doom metal is usually slow, but holy shit!!! Winter's first and only full length album, Into Darkness, is considered doom/death metal. This music is really, really slow. How slow you ask? Well it's like turtle slow. I don't have a metronome on me, but I think it is safe to say that this music is going about 30 or less beats per measure. The first song Oppression Freedom is an instrumental that is about five minutes long, with the same riff over and over, I think it is only played like four or five times though, that is how slow this is.

It's not really that bad though. The slowness on some of the songs, like the first song and Servants of the Warsmen, combined with the atmospheric like guitar riffs leaves a dark feeling. Talk about tone color. This album is dark and mysterious. The songs are about death, dying, etc. The guitars are actually hard to hear on some songs. It is really turned down, and the bass is like really loud, which is kind of unusual. The drumming is the best part of this album though. Where the bass and guitars are soft and slow, the drummer maintains a steady beat while throwing in some killer drum fills.

If you can get by the real slowness of this album, there is actually a lot to appreciate. It is very melodic like, while dark at the same time. It is kind of like a turtle meets Black Sabbath meets Crypt Kicker. If you want to relax, but still feel evil, this album is for you.