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Winter Eternal - Realm of the Bleeding Shadows - 93%

Edmund Sackbauer, January 28th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Azermedoth Records (Limited edition)

Another fantastic example of Greek music comes from this one-man band/project called Winter Eternal. Playing a kind of quite traditional and melodic black metal “Realm of the Bleeding Shadows” is the second full length by DIY man Soulreaper.

The typical tremolo picks and the pummeling blasts can be found here as well and build the basis of Winter Eternal's music. While each black metal band puts a lot of emphasis on building a sinister atmosphere Soulreaper has gone even a bit further compared to his peers. I would not go as far as labelling this album as atmospheric black metal as the main focus is still on the riffs and the relentless drum attacks but there are a lot of desperate and haunting harmonies dwelling in the background. Eerie themes presented by the lead guitar are always present – sometimes more subtle and in other places as leading elements defining certain parts of the song.

The drumming is tight and precise without being pushed too much into the foreground. The instrumentation is flawless without ever turning into redundant wankery. The songs are written in a very stringent and (for that kind of music) accessible way making them immediately enjoyable for the consumer despite their sheer brutality and grimness. The single parts of the songs are woven together in a way to make each song stand on its own feet and the technical complexity is used as additional tool to underline certain sections.

One issue I often have with black metal is that a lot of bands seem to think it is enough to play and look as evil as possible. This is not the case here as Soulreaper perfectly knows how to piece together all the elements to weave intricate yet highly enjoyable soundscapes. The listener will get hypnotized by dark and powerful themes and melodies. There is a great amount of melancholy defined by the guitar harmonies in each of the songs and by repeating similar trademark lines in later sections the whole album gains a lot when being consumed in one go. The songs are professionally constructed and while there is a lot going on there are enough hooks and clear song structures to make the music pretty easy to get into.

The vocals are desperate sounding like an ancient demon or a desperate soul lost in eternal darkness. The spot-on and intense delivery highlights the rawness of the music. The same can be said about the production which is filthy and natural-sounding yet clear and powerful and the fitting cover artwork. All in all “Realm of the Bleeding Shadows” is a great example of traditional black metal slightly adopted for present times and one of my favorites in this genre for 2019.

Darkness Be My Guide - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, June 24th, 2019

Despite hailing from Greece, Winter Eternal’s take on melodic black metal doesn’t quite sync up to anything from Rotting Christ or Varathron. As befitting their name, the group boasts a cold atmosphere along with intricate guitar playing and occasional symphonic swells more in line with Dissection or Windir. Their second full-length album Realm of the Bleeding Shadows shows considerable growth compared to their 2013 self-titled debut, keeping a similar style but picking up a few tricks along the way.

What really sets Realm of the Bleeding Shadows apart from its predecessor as well as a majority of black metal, in general, is the bass playing. Not content with merely being heard, the bass lines frequently overpower the rhythm guitars and can be as intricate as the leads. It’s a fascinating dynamic shift, especially when you consider that bandleader Soulreaper played all the instruments but drums on both efforts. The clanking could come off gimmicky, but it really goes a long way in shaping this album’s character.

Of course, the other performances remain just as tight. There seems to be a heavier emphasis on atmosphere as the guitar tone comes off darker while the vocals take a more distant spot in the mix. I also find the drums sound more aggressive, perhaps due to the changing personnel, but the overall dynamic stays clean. The vocals would benefit from more power behind them but they clearly aren’t meant to be the main focus.

While the songwriting isn’t quite as impactful as the virtuosity, there are some great tracks on here. “Embrace the Old Ways” is easily the most immediate standout, coming off the acoustic intermission of “The Promise” with the album’s most triumphant, upbeat riff sets. I can also appreciate the melodic march on “Darkness Guides Me” and the choral breakdown on “The Secrets of Time.” “A Tearful Song” also makes for an appropriately depressive highlight despite the vocals coming dangerously close to Silencer territory.

Overall, Realm of the Bleeding Shadows isn’t quite an essential black metal staple, but its stunning musicianship really helps set Winter Eternal apart from their peers. It features some of the best bass playing I’ve ever heard in the genre and it works with the other instruments in setting up a proper aesthetic. Part of me wishes the album was a little longer but a compact thirty-two-minute runtime also makes it a safe recommendation for anybody looking to try them out. With any luck, Winter Eternal is well on their way in carving out a distinct identity in the melodic black metal scene.

“Darkness Guides Me”
“Embrace the Old Ways”
“A Tearful Song”

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