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An effective display of potential - 85%

NephilimRising, June 5th, 2008

Though America’s ambient and “suicidal” black metal groups seem to be in the underground’s spotlight at the moment, California’s Winterthrall burst in with sounds straight from the sylvan majesty and icy tundra’s of Norway or Sweden.

Expect melodic black metal as played by the European masters; Dissection, Setherial, Naglfar etc… Frozen tremolo, melodic clean guitar breaks and an audible bass. Tastefully used keyboards appear, though usually buried and offered as an accent to the guitars. Vocals are shrill blackened caterwauling, death growls are also present. Production is relatively clean. Drums are a mixed bag however; the cymbals sound appropriately wintry, bringing to mind Nord-era Setherial. The bass and snare are overloud though, not unreasonably loud, (like Secrets of the Black Arts) but just enough to become obnoxious on cheap speakers after a while.

The album begins with a power chord, double bass blasting and a bold (or cliché) statement against Christianity, before blasting into a despir inducing whirlwind of snare and string buzzing. “Light of a Failing Sun” shows Winterthrall firing on all cylinders, as a blast of icy tremolo and snare abuse strike the listener. Menacing lead work quickly follows, setting the groundwork for the album's standout track. “In Frozen Apathy” slows things down and evokes a majestic frozen wasteland though use of beautiful clean guitar and guest vocalist Janis Tanaka’s pseudo-operatic voice. These first five songs show off Winterthrall's talent for mixing volatile, tight and razor sharp riffing with cold, frozen atmosphere.

Afterwards, the quality drops, as the songs seem to run together and a discernable worn out melodeath influence creeps in. These last three tracks are from earlier demos and the difference is perceivable. The last track has an unnecessary seven minutes of silence artificially increasing the length of the album before a decent cover of Carcass’ Death Certificate pops up.

All in all a worthy and varied release from the American upstarts. I look forward to seeing them tighten their craft and release a TRUE full length soon not just a collection of demos and cover songs. For dwellers in the realms of cold (have I said this enough?) melodic black metal.