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Good but with some flaws - 72%

oneyoudontknow, July 9th, 2011

Ouroboros, the alchemic symbol for infinity or wholeness, is the title of this release and the track titles give an indication why this way an applicable choice. Those four compositions are supposed to reflect the turn of the seasons and form together an entire year. From a reviewer’s point of view it would be of interest not only how the music was executed and crafted, but also how well it is able to actually reflect the conceptual background. Is it possible to identify the autumn or the spring for instance? Let us do an analysis, then:

  • Spring (Consecration)
    Birds are chirping, some keyboards tune in and the music progresses into some form of atmospheric melodic black metal. Imagine Summoning without the harsh vocals and with less impact of the synths; these wake also memories on Oxiplegatz’ Sidereal Journey. Clean ones appear as well and the whole track is a bit ‘kept back’ or quite calm.

  • Summer (Conjuration)
    The sound of rain opens this track, the sound of thunder and the music progresses quite gently. In the background there is the vague play of a keyboard and a mixture between slower and faster segments can be found. There is a resemblance with the preceding track; in atmosphere as in style.

  • Autumn (Manifestation)
    Crackling of fire, the sound of an owl … this is what you can do at a dark autumn evening. Unlike ‘Spring’ and ‘Summer’, this one would be more aggressive and faster. The atmospheric/melodic elements are kept, but had been wrapped in a different envelope if you like. Here, also female vocals can be found for the first time.

  • Winter (Banishing)
    Compared with the other tracks, this one falls through the cracks. It is slow and somehow melancholic. Rather doom mixed with black metal than anything with an emphasis on the latter can be found here. Those females vocals appear again. Furthermore, the impact of the keyboards is on the largest scale on this one.

    One aspect in which every track differs from the preceding/succeeding one would be the drums. Their sound ranges from slightly muffled over to raw and cold and you might get an impression that each of the compositions had been recorded with a slightly unique setting. Aside from this the introduction of each track also reflects the style of the season in some respect. Cheering music at the beginning – spring and summer – intense one in the autumn (a state of ecstasy from fermented harvested fruits?) and a depressing and sad ending – winter, obviously. The music appears in a certain scale and never really attempts to break out of it. Tempo and flow are restricted in some respect and rarely exceed a certain barrier; with exceptions according to the ‘seasons’ of course. Harsh breaks or aggressive switches are ideas that have hardly a place on this album. Aside from this the typical ingredients make an appearance: growls/screams in terms of the male vocals with some rare clean ones; a female who joins in for some short glimpses on the last two tracks; gentle keyboard play in the background with a more dominant role on the last composition.

    When there is something I have to criticize then it is the overall shallowness of the music. To me, the actual way the music was crafted leaves a little bit to be desired. Take the vocals, take the arrangements … there are not many surprising elements in them. Yes, the riffs and the atmosphere are good and undoubtedly above average, but I am still slightly bored. Maybe it is the length in which the music is generally presented in, maybe it is a concept gone wrong, well, it is hard to give a definite statement on this. Those four tracks are not even too complex or too overloaded; rather the absence of sort of a red line; not only in terms of each of them but also between them. Maybe the ideas in each of the compositions should have been explored a little bit more and given more depth with more facets for instance. This album is no rollercoaster trip, but rather something like a shift in perspective that comes all too sudden and without a real explanation. So, when you take a look on the album the following question arises: How does this all fit together? It is really difficult to answer, but let us at least attempt to do so:

    When you read the lyrics on the sheet, with which the demo is sold, then you get an impression of some sort of transition; yes, part of it can already be read from the track titles, thank you for paying attention. How the idea behind the music is to be understood is revealed by the texts, but are they actually able to reflect some of the atmospheres? To describe the performance on Ouroboros as convincing would be misleading. The emotions, to which the texts allude, are merely scratched on the surface and as the music is slightly plain and ‘controlled’, it is hard to really feel the intentions behind this piece of art. Not only the weird transitions – clear cuts and gaps – between each of the compositions are somewhat annoying, it is also this limitation in the facets, which might give a person a hard time, while listening to Ouroboros.

    As already mentioned above, the idea behind this album is a concept, which the listener is able to take a dive into with the help of the lyric sheet. A core aspect is already explained by the title of the album: Ouroboros. More information on the matter can be gained from the titles of the tracks. References to magic(k)al topics can also be obtained from the picture of this piece of paper: it reminds on those illustrations from the Middle Ages, which depict witches as women who ride on their broomsticks over the top of the houses; while the goat is the obvious reference to the devil and the bats indicate that this scenery takes place at night. The word ‘witch’ can be translated to wise woman – something the patriarchal Christian church had and still has some problems with – yet the texts actually deal with a different matter. Something about a ritual and how it progresses through the different seasons. In spring the path is set and the trip begins: out of this world into something outside out this physical one. In the summer Ancient Gods are summoned, for they are described as sources of ancient knowledge and forgotten wisdom that the person wants to obtain again. Autumn is the time in which the connection to the mystical world is established and ‘she’ appears on the mystical scenery. It should not surprise to see the winter as the time in which the journey ends and the person returns to this world again. The texts contain a lot of references to pagan mysticism and the idea of renewal. Those who are more familiar with such topics, might be able to point to specific rituals or concepts that from a neutral perspective remain vague and unclear.

    Back to the music again: A recommendation I have given so many times already is also valid when it comes to Winter Realm: give the listener some time to breathe. Give this person some rest and do not attempt to express too many lyrics in a short time frame. It simply does not work. I can name countless releases with the same flaw and I am always surprised to see it appear again and again.

    I believe a lot of effort was put into this release and I am really impressed by the way the tapes are distributed by the band. But believe me, while the outer shell might be tempting, what you find in the inside is less fascinating. Similar to the debut album of Hexentomb, this American band spread something that pretends to be more than it actually is. And it is always a sad thing to thing to see, left alone to give such a statement. Good riffs and atmospheres as well as a good production make not a powerful release alone. The issues discussed above could have been avoided with some additional balancing or a splitting of the long compositions into smaller ones, whose content would have been varied to a larger degree then.

    Based on a review originally written for ‘A dead spot of light (Number 7)’:
    http://www.archive.org/details/ADeadSpotOfLight...number7
  • Evoking the Unseen - 80%

    Moobeat, February 16th, 2011

    ‘Ouroboros’ is the second full length release by Florida’s own Aetas.

    This release is broken into four parts. There is a corresponding part both in name and in concept for each season. Track 1, Spring (Consecration) is a mild paced birth to the album. Lyrically the track deals with the namesake of the album, “Ouroboros” or the endless cycle. Summer (Conjuration) flourishes from the groundwork laid by Spring. It gives us a fiery trek through the adolescence of the cycle. Autumn (Manifestation) is, as with the corresponding season, stuck between the vivacious life and the cold death. It constantly switches between a droning creep and a swift melody set by the previous tracks. Winter (Banishing) gives us just what the name implies, a bleak and cold death to the album. It switches styles to a slow, dooming creep laced with misanthropic lyrics and tortured growls.

    The rifts on the album are solid and at sometimes even catchy at certain points. From a song writing stand point, the lyrics do a good job of following the theme and feel of the music; most of them pay homage to nature and desolation. The vocals within the release are phenomenal. The vocals are performed in such a way that most of the lyrics are audible and understandable which is something that greatly complements the song writing. Alternating between growls, rasps, and even clean spoken word, Aetas continues to hone his vocals. Track 3 also features female vocals, which don’t mimic the same emotion and feeling of the rest of the album. The gesture of diversity is appreciated though; Aetas is experimenting with dual vocals. The drumming is my main complaint for the album. I assume they are done by machine as they are so dry sounding. They are not in par with the rest of the album and subtract from it.

    Aetas continues to progress his one man project with the release of ‘Ouroboros’. The album holds together more tightly than ‘Twilight’ and follows a constant theme. I’m giving the release a 80%. There is nothing ground breaking here, but it still manages to wiggle out of the oversaturated genre of atmospheric black metal and come out ahead. The album merits support for the project, as too many promising bands go unappreciated and disregarded until our beloved genre becomes a pile of mediocrity. I look forward to what the next cycle brings.

    the tree waves left, the tree waves right - 73%

    Noktorn, January 10th, 2011

    The Bradenton/Sarasota area is not a hotbed of metal. Yeah, okay, we had Atheist at one point, but two decades after the fact you can take them off our hands already. Most of the original music around here is melodic hardcore or screamo- both fun from time to time, but sometimes you want a little more meat. Here's where WinterRealm comes in with its goofy capitalization schemes and some of the 'black metal' that I've been hearing the kids talk about lately.

    The primary influences here are pretty clear: late Bathory, early Dimmu Borgir, and Burzum's 'Filosofem'. The latter is definitely the biggest presence on this release: WinterRealm almost exactly replicates Varg's style of droning, uncertain, vaguely sardonic chords- hell, the guitar tone is almost the same. And while this Burzumish drone definitely composes a big part of the music here, it seems that's it's tempered by Bathory's big and epic yet relatively simple compositions and the overall delivery of early Dimmu Borgir- it's a more dramatic, traditionally black metal take on 'Filosofem', you see. I suppose this sort of combination was inevitable, but you still never really expect to see it fully.

    I'm actually pretty happy with the songwriting on 'Ouroboros' for the most part- Aetas has an ear for dual guitar lines and synth arrangements that display a bit more nuance than most. Granted, this is a one-man project and it does fall into many of the same traps that other projects of that nature do- somewhat excessive repetition and a lack of detail and assymetricality in the songwriting- but frankly the riffs and overall delivery of the music is strong enough to overcome this. I might actually say that WinterRealm's reach might be exceeding their grasp a bit, but more in the manner of a project finding its legs rather than a disastrous band-ender. For instance, the clean vocals: pretty solid most of the time melodically, but clearly hesitant.

    I suppose the only thing I really take issue with is the production, which, while evenly mixed for the most part, just isn't justifying itself for the music. The drum machine is very dry which exacerbates the obviousness of the machine itself, and the inaudibility (or perhaps complete lack?) of a bass guitar makes the very thin, reedy guitars sort of week when pushed against the rest of the music. I understand this is a top to bottom home production job, but the music sounds compressed and thin, like everything's jammed in a 50 Hz range with everything else. Don't be shy! Use the rest of that waveform!

    'Ouroboros' is a pretty solid if flawed release, but I could definitely see project being a regular listen in the future if some of the production issues were sorted out. Aetas does legitimately seem to be a bit ahead of the pack in songwriting for a one-man project, so I'm interested in seeing where this goes in the future.

    More Interesting Than Burzum - 80%

    Nithoggr, January 2nd, 2011

    I first heard of WinterRealm via Metal Archives’ promotional section of the forum, and after obtaining the mp3 version of the album I have decided to present my thoughts on the work.

    Usually, I critique the presentation of an album first. However, as I have said before, I have the mp3 version, thus I am unable properly review this aspect of the album. So, I will leave no comments concerning such.

    Regardless, on to the music. The instrumental composition of Orobouros is, quite frankly, phenomenal. The work manages to have the primary strength of atmospheric black metal while avoiding the usual pitfalls of the same. That is to say, Orobouros creates a cold and dark atmosphere while easily dodging the overly repetitive element that often plagues its chosen genre. Though each song usually consists of one or two primary riffs, each riff is layered. These layers, whether they be keyboards or a simple but brilliant lead guitar, give each riff a refreshing element of variety. With the exception of the lead guitar, no single instrument really stands out, but each element is well done and fits into the whole like a customized cog.

    Now, onto the vocal element, which is both a blessing and a curse. The vocals range from mid-range black vocals to male and female clean vocals. The screams are quite good, and convey a very tortured feeling to the listener. Unfortunately, the clean vocals are mixed. Occasionally, the male clean vocals are done fairly well, and provide a good contrasst to the screams, but the female vocals are usually off key. Additionally, the female vocals seem somewhat forced, and they do not really match the frosty feeling of the music.

    The lyrics are well written and certainly blend well with the feelings of the music. The thought out nature of the verses are at least on par with the compostion of the music.

    The production of the album is appropriate for atmospheric black metal. To elaborate, the production is good enough for the listener to hear each instrument clearly, but it is not so clean as to negate the rawness so vital to this style of music. The only real complaint I have with the production lies in the volume of the album. The thing plays way too quietly. I had to turn my ipod almost to its maximum volume level just to get the track to play loud enough for me to properly hear them.

    Overall, I recommend WinterRealm’s Orobouros to all fans of atmospheric black metal, especially if it ever gets released via cd, instead of just tape and mp3. It is a very strong album that injects some much needed variety into a style of music infamous for stagnation. The only true weaknesses are the poorly done female clean vocals and its horribly low volume. If one is a fan of Burzum, Summoning, Drukh, or Virgin Black, he would do well to pick up this icy album.