One of the most fundamental strengths of black metal lies in its atmosphere. Even the most sinister bands in the genre usually incorporate some sort of melody into their music, even if it’s done in the most subtle of ways. Hailing from Germany, Winterblood are a black metal act that often focus on the ambience of the genre and we’re all better off for it on their debut album Herbstsehnsucht. It means yearning for autumn and the band does a spectacular job of creating a soundtrack that would fit perfectly into any gloomy fall night.
To be transcended into the autumn season, one doesn’t need to venture any further than the gorgeous title track which starts with the sound of pouring rain before bringing in some delicate guitar-work. However, it’s much more than simply the sound of rain that gives the song such a seasoned feeling. Vocalist and founder of the band “Fall” provides some of his softer vocals which are quite soothing throughout the title track. It isn’t all relaxed though, as he also shows off his black metal growls later in the track which are blended with his unique, opera-like singing voice. What really makes Fall stand out, however, is his range. One minute he’s laying down moody croons only to sound like a snarling beast the next. ‘Saturnnebel’ is one of the heavier offerings as he shows his fangs with a relentless vocal performance. He’s not the only star of the group, though, as Hrothgar is on guitar duty and adds both melody and aggression to every song. ‘Derniere’ is a prime example of his ability as he opens with soft, intricately played notes that soon bleed into much darker, muddier guitars.
I may not understand a damn word on Herbstsehnsucht (aside from ‘My Eternal Grave’) but it doesn’t take away from the album’s ability to hook the listener with its intriguing vocals and captivating guitar lines. Even without knowing the lyrics, Winterblood are able to raise emotions in the listener ranging from depression to anger and even hope. ’Raserei des Meeres’ is a definite highlight which shows off the band’s angrier side with 10 minutes of relentless guitars played over what could be Fall’s most theatrical performance. Due to his background as a tenor/baritone vocalist he’s able to hit notes many can’t and he shows off this skill sporadically throughout the album. It’s always done sparingly, so it tends to add character to the songs rather than coming across as gimmicky. If anything, he often leaves us wanting more of his epic, almost King Diamond-esque vocals. Apart from Fall’s performance, Hrothgar also impresses on ‘Raseri des Meeres’ as he lays down rough and dirty riffs throughout the song and throws in an unexpected guitar solo towards the end of the epic track.
Herbstsehnsucht is an album that takes some time to digest, but it’s more than worth diving into. Those looking for black metal with no shortage of atmosphere or riffs will find a lot to enjoy here from the somber ballad-like tracks to the fast-paced black metal assaults. It’s not perfect, and it tends to drag in a few spots, but more often than not it’s a surprisingly solid and consistent debut from some promising new blood in the genre.
01. Nur der Tod hat mir Erlösung gebracht
02. Mit jedem Abschied wird Erinnerung geboren
03. Raserei des Meeres
05. My Eternal Grave
08. Dernière (Instrumental Version)