Saturday, May 11, 2013

Paysage d'Hiver

Nordlicht & Paysage d'Hiver Split
Kunstall Produktionen, 2017
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Füür Rouch Ruäss
Paysage d'Hiver:
2. Schnee III

Side Nordlicht: here
Side Paysage d'Hiver:

Given that the Paysage d'Hiver side of this split is titled "Schnee III" I imagine it was supposed to be released before the split with Drudkh, but as usual with vinyl stuff it probably had some sort of delay or some other mishap.

Now, I don't know if Season of Mist or whatever did something to the original master files for the split with Drudkh, but if you remember my review from earlier I mentioned it sounded far too bass-y for a Paysage d'Hiver track. I truly hope this is not the direction Wintherr is taking the recording quality, because on "Schnee III" we basically pick up where "Das Tor" leaves off and we are subjected to one of the best and most chilling songs from the project. I absolutely love it. I would actually love to hear "Schnee IV" with similar production, because I'm sure that would be a fast favorite of mine as well. However, "Schnee III" is really interesting in the fact that some riffs actually have some real interesting groove amidst the droning atmospheres. This adds an extra layer of interest in the music that really stands out, but it is not over done by any means. Instead these riffs creep through the mix and fade into some powerfully slower chords, then resurface in the song later before things come to a close. Then when the violin part kicks in and just adds that extra chilling layer to the experience... I just want a whole album that sounds like this. Let's be honest here.

The overall production quality is a bit clearer than "Das Tor" and I think this is the perfect medium for a Paysage d'Hiver song. It's just clear enough to see through the haze of their storm, but nothing feels overly buried. At times "Das Tor" is a bit too noisy and I think some elements are lost in the mix, but here we've got a much stronger balance. If Wintherr is reading these reviews for whatever reason, this is the production value you should be aiming for! Not what we heard on the Drudkh split.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on this release, and you loved "Das Tor" this is absolutely a MUST buy. Do not miss out on this!

Drudkh & Paysage d'Hiver Split
Season of Mist/Kunstall Produktionen, 2017
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. All Shades of Silence
2. The Night Walks Towards Her Throne
Paysage d'Hiver:
3. Schnee IV

Side Drudkh: ...coming eventually...
Side Paysage d'Hiver:

There's a new Paysage d'Hiver release and of course it is a must have on my buy list. I really enjoy both bands on this split, so I was really excited to get this release. It's limited to 500 copies and I have the the white LP edition. Of course it's a 12", because the Paysage d'Hiver song clocks in at nearly twenty minutes.

After the immensity that was "Das Tor" I was looking forward to more music in a similar vein and that's, essentially, what we've been given here. The opening greets us with the standard fair icy wind, before blending with a strummed acoustic guitar. It's not a very long wait until we are greeted with the Black Metal onslaught that we've all come for. That icy riffing and rhythmic pounding of the programmed drums. The on major complaint I have about the whole affair is that Wintherr has changed production values for this release. The track has entirely too much sound sitting in the bass spectrum. One of the strengths of Paysage d'Hiver was the thinned out production, giving it a truly vicious bite. I feel like he was going for a more huge production approach, maybe something where Darkspace would sit well, but it doesn't work as well with the Paysage d'Hiver style. Instead the bass frequencies tend to dominate the mix a little too much and drown out the wondrous guitar work I've really wanted. The riffs are surely excellent and exciting to listen to and if he can ever strike a solid balance between a huge sounding production and something thinned out for those of us that want the supremely chilling atmosphere... well... then Paysage d'Hiver would be onto something really special.

Despite the minor flaw I had, the overall track is excellent. As usual, it is never enough Paysage d'Hiver, for we are all always in need of more, but I do hope another full-length is looming on the horizon sooner than later.

Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor
Kunstall Produktionen, 2013
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Offenbaring
2. Macht des Schicsals
3. Ewig Leuchten die Sterne
4. Schluessel

It's been six years since we've heard from this project.  It has first been released on cassette but the usual A5 digipack CD packaging in black envelope came out shortly after.  There isn't much more to the booklet this time and I really wish they would return to pressing it with more art.  Having lyrics is fine, but the combination of the two was really nice to see, especially since these cost over 20USD to get them new.

I am very pleased to report that after two releases of far too much Ambient we are treated to a release that has a lot of Black Metal.  Since I listened to "Einsamkeit" and "Das Tor" back to back, it was interesting to see how the outro of "Einsamkeit" quickly flowed into the Ambient intro of "Das Tor".  After a couple of monumental Darkspace releases I figured there would be some influence between the two projects.  The first noticeable difference is the production being so much clearer and Wintherr seems to have adopted the recording practices displayed on Darkspace "III".  This is definitely a huge plus for this album, because the production is both harsh and audible, which is just perfect for this style of Black Metal.  I don't think much has changed with the Paysage d'Hiver project, because I think a lot of the spacier aspects have simply been transported over to Darkspace.  A lot of Darkspace's style was developed on the earlier Paysage d'Hiver albums, so if you think there is anything taken from Darkspace it's more the other way around.

The big difference, and probably experience Wintherr took from Darkspace, is the maturity of the writing and arrangement process.  This entire album is simply monolithic in style and presentation.  Everything song belongs here and every song is completely immersive into the style of Paysage d'Hiver.  I don't feel ashamed in saying that "Das Tor" really manages to rival "Winterkalete", and I think this is merely because the composition level on "Das Tor" is much higher due to all the experience over the years.  Wintherr has really managed to harness his craft into a well tempered performance.

"Das Tor" really is a monumental release for me, and maybe some of it has to do with the years of inactivity from Paysage d'Hiver.  Be that as it may, this is the album I've been waiting for him to release since the days of "Winterkaelte".  I don't know if it was because the writing and inspiration dried up or if Darkspace was consuming much of his writing, but seriously, his fans have been waiting a long time for this.  I am just glad to see that he really delivered something really special and did not change very much of the project.  Instead we get a piece of solid Atmospheric Black Metal that can truly be described as beautiful and mesmerizing to behold.

Paysage d'Hiver - Einsamkeit
Kunsthall Produktionen, 2007
Genre: Ambient

1. Einkehr
2. Inneres Licht
3. Kraft

After three years of silence from Paysage d'Hiver they finally return with a new album.  It's a little disappointing in the sense that it's basically all Ambient, but I also do realize that in the meantime we've been given some very impressive releases from Darkspace.  From looking at the cover I was expecting a more spacey release from Paysage d'Hiver, maybe hearkening back to elements in the early days.  Instead we get something a little different.

The first song Einkehr is similar to the Ambient we heard on "Nacht".  It is extremely minimal, and if I had to relate it to the art... I would say it's like staring off into the universe.  Until you hear the wolves howling at the end, then it makes me think of looking up at the night sky.  The problem with this is that we basically already heard this on "Nacht", so after waiting so long this is what we get... "Inneres Licht"  is a little bit better, at least I feel like it's not ripped right from "Nacht".  It's extremely minimialist Ambient though and while it sounds alright, I feel like other projects have done this type of thing better.  However, we finally make it to "Kraft" and this is clearly one of the best things I've ever heard.  He uses guitar to generate atmosphere with the Ambient, but this is most definitely not a Black Metal thing.  Honestly he should've done three songs in this fashion and he would have one of the best Ambient journeys to have been released.  I'm starting to get the impression that Paysage d'Hiver is more of an experimental project for Wintherr and he just releases all of the things he creates amidst his experimenting, whether they make sens together or not.  Well, it would make a lot of sense for him to do an album in the vein of "Kraft" and I seriously think this needs to be created.  It will be one of the darkest, most immersive, and monumental creations to grace the world of Ambient.

If it weren't for "Kraft" I would have considered this album almost worthless, due to hearing most of the material on prior albums.  I really do hope that "Kraft" is in the future for Paysage d'Hiver, I will probably not get my wish though, stuff like that rarely happens.  Anyway, enjoy the immersion you get when listening to this amazing track!

Paysage d'Hiver - Nacht
Kunsthall Produktionen, 2004
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Des Lichtes Sterben I
2. Ein Getriebener im Schneetreiben
3. Finsternis, Tod und Einsamkeit
4. Des Lichtes Sterben II

This year we would be lucky enough to hear something from the world of Paysage d'Hiver, albeit some are classifying this as an EP, which clocks in at over an hour in track time.  That being the case, I will just call this an album.  "Nacht" is both a good and bad release, but based on some of the reviews I've read from the original demo tape, I feel like some things are different between the two releases.

Apparently the original tape version had no track titles and the first side, "Nacht I" started of with over seventeen minutes of just wind.  That's not really the case with the CD version here.  "Des Lichtes Sterben I" has seventeen minutes of wind, but there's also some meandering Ambient over all this wind for, just about, the entire track.  Towards the end vocals kick in over the ambiance and wind, but this is sort of a spoken word done with harsh vocals.  I think Wintherr may have heeded the reviews and added some more to this before releasing the CD version in 2010.  I do agree that the Ambient tracks are far too long on this release and I would have preferred to get to the Black Metal sections sooner.  Also, there has clearly been some rearrangement of the tracks.  On the CD the Ambient tracks play as an intro and outro piece, while on the tape the Ambient tracks serve as intros to both sides.  I won't complain about this since this puts the Black Metal tracks right after each other for the CD version.  When I saw the title of the second Black Metal track allude to "Finsternis", I was pretty excited to hear.  I was quickly disappointed to see it was just a meandering instrumental.  It certainly had loads of atmosphere, but like the Ambient/Wind tracks it just sort of sits there.  Even after the riff changes at the eight minute mark, I still feel like it isn't really going anywhere, but unlike the reports of the demo this isn't a track of entirely wind and I totally prefer this as the intro to the closing Black Metal song "Des Lichtes Sterben II."  I wish they had put the Black Metal tracks back to back in the arrangement of the track listing because then it would've felt a little more full instead of having a seventeen minute lull in between the tracks.  "Des Lichtes Sterben II" is a fine Black Metal track producing more of that sinister dark atmosphere we find on "Ein Getriebener im Schneetreiben", but it just isn't as strong as the first song for the first half.  After about thirteen minutes we are treated to more wind before some guitar starts to kick in after a few minutes.  This part of the song is actually quite spectacular.  It has that deep slow and heavy rhythm, but this time played over it is some beautiful acoustic passages.  This blends together to have an immense, yet very melancholic feel.  "Finsternis, Tod und Einsamkeit" should have just been this style for the seventeen minutes it plays through, I could seriously listen to this type of music forever.  Either way, had these been back to back, I think it would have been less noticeable, but they really are two rather fine tracks in the grand scheme of things, especially that entire outro section of "Des Lichtes Sterben II"... simply immense!

I walk away from this release with pretty mixed feelings.  Sure Wintherr created an album around the idea of night and sort of succeeded in creating a quiet and contemplative piece.  I think the changes he made from the original demo have certainly made this release much stronger and it doesn't feel nearly as daunting to listen to when looking at what the original reviews had to say.  Unfortunately those intro pieces are still too long and the arrangement feels out of place.  I feel like he had two concepts running at once and tried to put them together.  On the one hand we have some quiet contemplative tracks as if quietly listening to stuff at night, but then we also have these intense, yet atmospheric, tracks that are anything but quiet and contemplative.  I think he really should've either gone with more Black Metal or less Black Metal and either way this release would have come out much better.  I do applaud him for trying to fix the problems his listeners had with the initial presentation of the album though.

Lunar Aurora & Paysage d'Hiver Split
Eternity Records, 2004
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

Lunar Aurora:
1. A Haudiga Fluag
Paysage d'Hiver:
2. Schwarza Feus
3. Schwarzas Isa

Side Lunar Aurora: ...coming eventually...
Side Paysage d'Hiver:

Another year brings us another split.  I guess writing with Darkspace is taking priority, but I am happy to report that this split yields some stupendous Paysage d'Hiver material.  This is yet another vinyl limited to 500 hand-numbered copies and I have #425.  I was lucky enough to pick-up one of the few copies that people decide to actually sell.

Paysage d'Hiver opens with some Dark Ambiance to draw the listener in, then switches into that thick toned material we first encountered on "Winterkaelte".  It's basically the sound Blut Aus Nord would be known for, but we here Paysage d'Hiver return to it again for this split.  "Schwarza Feus" comes across as being even more impressive since, not only does it have that deep Blut aus Nord atmosphere, he's also blending it with some patented Darkspace styled ideas.  The two songs recorded for this are simply wonderful.  They really do manage to keep a terrifically haunting atmosphere throughout the listen and you can really tell Wintherr has gotten much better at writing cohesive arrangements.  "Schwarzas Isa" is a little slower and more somber, but it segues from the immensely dark "Schwarza Feus" very well.  "Schwarza Feus" is definitely the stand out track on here for me due to it's depth and terrifying nature and I would really love to hear a full length of this caliber in the near future.  These two tracks are definitely twenty minutes of solid Paysage d'Hiver material and I highly recommend them.

Paysage d'Hiver & Vinterriket Split
Neodawn Productions, 2003
Genre: Black Metal

Paysage d'Hiver:
1. Schnee
2. Das Winterreich

Side Vinterriket: ...coming eventually...
Side Paysage d'Hiver:

Paysage d'Hiver have been fairly quiet when it comes to their writing.  After a couple years they only have one song to show off on this split.  I guess we shouldn't be too surprised since Darkspace is now active.  Last year they put out a demo and this same year they put out their debut full length, so I imagine Wintherr has been focusing his writing powers on that project.  I hope this doesn't mean Paysage d'Hiver will wind up on hiatus, because I feel like this project was just hitting that golden era where everything sounds perfect.This split is a vinyl only released and it is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, of which I own #388.

Even though we get only one track, it clocks in at over sixteen minutes in the usual Paysage d'Hiver fashion.  Musically the track is fairly on par with the other material found on the project.  It's one of the faster and more vicious sounding tracks for an Atmospheric band and is reminiscent of the material found on the self-titled.  There's even this exquisite tremolo picked part that really stands out when it kicks in.  There is one stark difference for this track and that is the use of clean vocals on much of this song.  They seem to be layered in with the harsh vocals and I actually didn't find the cleans that overwhelming.  It actual sounds a little bit like Vinterriket's clean vocals, so I was wondering if he did them, since Wintherr has never used clean vocals before.  I tried looking at scanned images of the packaging, but I couldn't find much information on there.  The cleans did take away from the overall experience a little bit, but they weren't too invasive.  I certainly wouldn't want  to hear them on every single Paysage d'Hiver track out there, so hopefully he'll stick with the harsh vocals in future recordings.

Paysage d'Hiver - Winterkaelte
Kunstall Produktionen, 2001
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Ich Schreite
2. Ich Starre
3. Einsamkeit
4. Winter
5. Eintritt in die Sphaeren
6. Finsternis

If "Kristall & Isa" were the imminent evolution of Paysage d'Hiver's style then "Winterkaelte" is its perfection.  One thing I do love about this project is the fairly constant improvement and that just keeps me coming back for more and more.  Unfortunately, the packaging is the most disappointing.  There are no extra pictures in the fold out panel inside the digipack, instead we just have lyrics.  Lyrics are great to have, but I loved the imagery associated with the Paysage d'Hiver releases, so I am sorry to see them left out.

The first thing any listener of their discography will notice is how well the drums happen to stand out this time.  I can actually hear cymbals!  Wintherr is really starting to harness the mix he needs to adhere to in order to get the full effect of his writing across.  "Ich Schreite" manages to pull this off perfectly and because it is mixed so much better this time the track comes across as immensely powerful and beautiful when performing the more melancholic passages.  This track makes me glad to see it's an epic length track, because Wintherr has finally been arranging his songs so well that you never really want them to end.  I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that a solid year has happened between releases, so hopefully more time and thought is being put into the track writing.  Personally, I think it really shows on this release.  "Ich Starre" brings us a slow and atmospheric track and I find I really look forward to these tracks now.  His writing of this material has seriously strengthened over the years and now I just get lost in the mesmerizing repeated rhythms.  It actually winds up being quite the experience as one zones out to the droning rhythms.  The element he's adding in this time seems to be the use of a choir setting for the Ambient types of music.  I sort of wish he would bring back the violin we found on the self-titled, for I feel it would be better applied.  However, the use of choir elements gives "Einsamkeit" quite a haunting and foreboding atmosphere for an Ambient track.  I think the biggest shock on this album is "Winter" because the guitar tone sounds so familiar, akin to a very popular band.  If you heard Blut aus Nord in this tone then you are right on the money.  I think Blut aus Nord was pretty much using this first, but I also think Blut aus Nord started trending down the path of Paysage d'Hiver in later releases, albeit with a much more dissonant bent to their concepts.  It's actually incredible that both projects would essentially release material that sounds very closely related, in this case Blut aus Nord has just released "The Mystical Beast of Rebellion", which features very similar riffing and composition.  The major difference being Vindsval ran with the style and developed it much further over the years layering it with very different and interesting elements.  Anyway, the rest of "Winterkaelte" is simply incredible and is by far the best material he has on one album to date.

This is a very monumental work and if you truly love the atmospheric style of Black Metal this is an absolute must have.  A collection simply isn't complete without it.  Paysage d'Hiver has been instrumental in developing this genre and with this album you hear how it was truly meant to sound and be performed.  The closing track "Finsternis" is rivaled by very few out there.  Of course after all this work we would see Wintherr begin collaboration with a new project that would gain even more world renown in the guise of the mighty Darkspace!

Paysage d'Hiver - Kristall & Isa
Kunstall Produktionen, 2000
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Isa
2. Austritt aus dem Koerper
3. Aether
4. Der Kristall ist Eis
5. Wachen/Innere Stimme
6. Kaelte

Delving into the new millennium brings us another Paysage d'Hiver album, and this is honestly the thing I was waiting for, I think.  when I envision all the things I wish Paysage d'Hiver would do, I think it has all come together on "Kristall & Isa".  As usual I have the A5 digipack and again the booklet is a little less interesting than before.  The picture inside the booklet appears to be tracks in the snow, but with all the graying out of the image it looks like a great rift.  It certainly compliments the cover of the album, and I think the cover fairly represents the feel of the Black Metal on this release.

One of the first things you'll notice when you listen to "Kristall & Isa" is that this album has some of the shortest track lengths in the entire Paysage d'Hiver discography.  I think before he would have included a lot of these as a single track, but on here he breaks them up, which I think makes more sense given the differing ideas and riffs of the songs.  He took what I learned from "Kerker" about having the album flow between tracks and masters that here as well.  Sometimes I am actually surprised to see that the track number has changed, that's how well he does with this.  There are a couple all Ambient tracks on this release and they really set the listener into a desolate atmosphere, which greatly compliments the very cold Black Metal being performed on the other tracks.  This truly is an immense work for Paysage d'Hiver and it seems he has started to harness the power of mixing the Ambient better.  The effect is simply stunning, with the atmosphere of the tracks being overwhelming and simply stellar.  An interesting element to note is that Wintherr has stayed away from using the spacier types of Ambient that he was experimenting on the prior albums and instead goes for a more somber kind of Ambient to blend into the songs.  I think this fits very well and certainly fits with the aesthetic of the album art this time around.

Prior to this, I sometimes felt the art and the music were at odds sometimes, but here they feel very in line with each other.  The Ambient aspects make one think that they are wandering through a snow covered land walking by a river flowing, where the Black Metal tracks really emphasize the cold and desolate atmosphere the listener must be experiencing.  The album closes out with the epic "Kaelte", which starts off a lot faster and more vicious than the prior tracks, but eventually gives away to some slower and well written mid-paced material.  It seems he's starting to experiment with these elements a little more solidly this time.  The guitar and vocals are lot more prominent in the mix and I don't think there is much Ambient being used at all.  At times the track can come across as being a bit noisy, but I think this has to do with the mixing.  This is unfortunate because the riffing sounds quite excellent.  However, after the Ambient interlude in the middle, the slow and melancholic Black Metal section that follows is simply incredible to behold.

I feel like this is the album we've been waiting for from Paysage d'Hiver.  Everything is exceptionally well written.  Sure there are still some mixing issues here and there, but the overall presentation is leagues ahead of the prior works.  The guitar riffs are extremely solid, some may not be as good as what we first heard on the self-titled, but they are certainly up there.  This is definitely a well refined work and absolutely worth hearing.

Paysage d'Hiver - Kerker
Kunstall Produktionen, 1999
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Tiefe
2. Schritte
3. Schatten
4. Gang

"Kerker" is the second release from Paysage d'Hiver this year, and his output is starting to border on that of Moonblood.  Releasing this much material this fast worries me a little, because I often wonder if we're getting the best possible material out of a musician.  If Wintherr spent more time writing and structuring instead of just publishing material, I wonder if we would get much stronger material.  Not that I'm saying his ideas are weak, he just clearly has a lot of them and I think some time spent re-arranging aspects would make the work even more monumental than it already is.  "Kerker" has tough work ahead of it if it is going to exceed the self-titled.

As before I am reviewing the usual A5 CD release of Paysage d'Hiver's material and the packaging is a little more simplistic this time.  It has a more involved cover, but the booklet inside is just a small fold out piece with the lyrics and one picture of... what appears to be a whirlpool.  Usually we are treated to a little more art than this, so I was disappointed about that.

How do the tracks measure up?  Well, in the last review I mentioned that he was starting to nail that Atmospheric Black Metal essence with the guitar work, but all it needed was the Ambient added in.  On "Kerker" he's trying to do that, but we run into issues with the way this album is mixed.  The album opens with "Tiefe" and I must say it has some incredible guitar work.  I love simply love it.  It's fast and vicious, making for a fairly intense song.  He's clearly trying to work in some Ambient elements, but the problem is that the mix doesn't lend itself to the blend very well.  When the Ambient comes in sometimes the guitar is drowned out, or sometimes the guitar drowns out the Ambient, it never seems to mix perfectly.  But all that wonderful atmosphere and style from the self-titled shows up in this epic ten minute track.  As with prior Paysage d'Hiver style, "Schritte" changes things completely.  It's a slow chugging track clearly meant to emphasize the ambiance going on in the background.  I will say that it works a little bit better than the slower tracks he's done in the past, and that might have to do with the Ambient elements, but I think the Ambient could be a little higher in the mix.  We would later hear this type of thing perfected with Darkspace though, so it's nice to see they really captured this kind of feel eventually.  "Kerker" is really where the idea started though.  It even has some of that spacier Ambient going on towards the end of the track.  "Schritte" degenerates down to just

Ambient, but immediately segues into "Schatten" which is an entirely Ambient track.  It's pretty well done and certainly fits within the context of the album so far.  One thing I think he managed to do well is blend the tracks together with the Ambient, so we feel like we have a fairly cohesive album.  Even though the tracks might be strikingly different, the Ambient brings everything together logically.  with "Gang" we return to that form of Atmospheric Black Metal found on the first track.  We've basically come full circle, which is slightly unfortunate.  I feel like this should have been the second track, because then it would have given the listener the idea that he was falling into something and would have made that whirlpool picture have a lot more meaning.  Either way, at least "Gang" is a very good track and feels right at home on this album.

"Kerker" continues the explorations started on the self-titled and takes the experimentation to a new level.  I would say "Kerker" is quite a successful release, but if he could just harness the mix properly this work would be more accessible and come across as even more monumental.  Either way, this work being developed here would certainly further influence generations of bands to come.

Paysage d'Hiver - Paysage d'Hiver
Kunstall Produktionen, 1999
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal

1. Welt aus Eis
2. Gefrorener Atem
3. Der weg

Delving into 1999 Paysage d'Hiver have decided to release a self titled album and this time it is all Black Metal.  After a complete release of just Ambient it seems that Wintherr wanted to take a step back from that and release a mostly all out Black Metal album.  Unfortunately, this is the one Paysage d'Hiver album I don't physically own, aside from the splits.  The prices that people are selling this thing for are obscene and I just won't pay that much for it.  Maybe someday it will get a repress and it would really be worth it to do so.

I think this is the most cohesive Paysage d'Hiver to date.  Every song on this release feels like it belongs there and flows fairly well.  Some songs are better than others, but I don't feel like anything comes across as disjoint.  Also, I feel this is an incredibly forward thinking album for the project.  This style would spawn endless bands influenced by this style.  You can easily see the early inklings of the Darkspace style coming to bear in Witherr's writing on this release, and in retrospect that makes this something very special to hear.    The major difference for this release is I feel the major presence of Ambient has taken a step back, and a lot of that is probably due to the way this was mixed.  The guitars feel far more prominent this time around and the ambiance is just buried.  It shows up a bit more prominently in tracks like "Der Weg", which is an incredible song.  But the overall album lacks that overarching Ambient theme.  Instead most of the atmosphere is generated through simple guitar layering.  When you blend the two concepts together with an Ambient layer in there, it truly becomes an amazing idea, but he hasn't quite gotten there yet.  However, I think Wintherr has really nailed a lot of the guitar layering he's reaching for to generate some impressive Atmospheric Black Metal.  In "Welt aus Eis" he even includes some violin sections, which sound pretty good with the song, but for some reason I didn't find the track to be as good as the other two.  For me "Gefrorener Atem" is the real stand out track here all the way through, but "Der Weg" has some absolutely stand out sections as well.

Naturally this is quite the influential work in this area.  I highly recommend seeking this out if you really enjoy the realms of Atmospheric Black Metal.  A lot of the ground work for that genre was really being developed here and the Paysage d'Hiver work finally culminates to this point so far. I am really looking forward to the future Paysage d'Hiver releases if this is truly an indication of the direction Wintherr is heading.  Truly a must have.

Paysage d'Hiver - Die Festung
Kunstall Produktionen, 1998
Genre: Ambient

2. Koenig Winter
3. Schnneeekoenigin
4. Eisprinzessin
5. Prinz Frost

For Paysage d'Hiver's third release we are treated to a very different, yet very interesting treat.  There is no metal on this release, instead we are treated to a very interesting world of Ambient.  I have the CD version where track two through five have been split into individual pieces.  This comes in the usual beautiful A5 digipack with a booklet that presents an interesting aesthetic.

The first track is the very long "Eishalle" and it actually sounds like builds on some of the Ambient ideas presented at the end of "Das Schwarze Metall-Eisen" from the last album.  Wintherr doesn't use the techno drum beat, but the song still manages to have a sort of futuristic flair to it.  I actually think this was done very well, even though it is quite different for what Paysage d'Hiver seems to stand for.  The next four tracks are meant to go together and it starts of with a sort of deep droning approach, similar to Mortiis' early work, and then meanders into some stranger elements.  It makes me think of walking through a sort of crystal palace or something like that.  "Prinz Frost" has a sort of futuristic feel to it with the choice in keyboard tones, but with all the echo and delay it sounds like your floating away into space.  I'm not sure if this is the particular concept he was looking to evoke, but that's what I'm seeing.  It's definitely a strange journey, but I feel like it comes full circle between the first track and last, so it sounds a lot more cohesive than prior Paysage d'Hiver albums.

This certainly makes for an interesting listen, but I'm not sure how many Paysage d'Hiver fans will buy into it.  I certainly do and I would love to hear some of this material blended into Black Metal songs, because it would sound really strange and really well done.

Paysage d'Hiver - Schattengang
Kunstall Produktionen, 1998
Genre: Ambient Black Metal

1. Moloch
2. Atmosphaere
3. Die Zeit des Torremond
4. Das Schwarze Metall-Eisen

This is actually the first Paysage d'Hiver recording I ever heard.  Perhaps this is why I did not fiend for this bands releases, because as a follow-up to "Steineiche" I found it to be a little wanting.  As usual I have the CD re-release from 2007 in beautiful A5 digipack.  These albums were hard to find even when they were being pressed, so as soon as I saw this show up in a distro I bought a copy, but I confess that is where my search really ended for the project.

"Steineiche" does start off with a very promising ambiance, building this haunting and terrifying atmosphere.  It's simply wonderful.  But then "Moloch" builds into a sort of plodding guitar riff that borders on a sort of Death Metal style of things.  This goes on for nearly twelve minutes and I just couldn't find very much merit in this song.  It dragged on too long and the Ambience interspersed throughout the song felt more forced then meshed well.  So, since this was my first experience with the project I probably couldn't get into that much and I probably didn't pay enough attention during "Atmosphaere".  "Atmosphaere" is an odd track, but it really builds on the Black Metal approach develop on "Steineiche".  The first half is merely okay Black Metal, it sounds pretty good, but it is not compelling.  Strangely much of the song seems cut and pasted together, it's almost as if there are four songs here with Ambient sections splitting the tracks up.  However, when we get about half way through the song transforms into some of the most compelling Black Metal around!  It is awesome and generates this immense atmosphere that you just get lost in.  It's so good that I just wish he would put out a whole album around this type of Black Metal.  At this point, I really don't know why he doesn't.  "Dei Zeit des Torremond" closes out the album with mere ambiance.  It's alright as far as an Ambient track goes, but I feel the ambiance he blended into the metal sections was a lot stronger than the single track.

The cassette version has an extra track on it called "Das Schwarze Metall-Eisen" and I managed to find an mp3 of that track.  The reason this track was left off the CD repress is because it did not fit with the "Schattengang" concept.  This track is a little different from the others, but it starts of with some extremely good Black Metal in the guise of what we heard on "Atmosphaere", so, to me, those tracks actually manage to fit together fairly well.  However, the song changes about half way through to just ambiance with a sort of techno drum beat behind it.  The way Paysage d'Hiver pulls this off actually sounds very dark and sinister, so it really works for what he's doing.  I definitely wouldn't mind hearing this track resurface with an album where it "fits" according to Wintherr.

"Schattengang" is really a mixed bag of material.  It's a little jarring and I think that really disrupts the experience of Ambient Black Metal.  This release isn't nearly as good as "Steineiche", but perhaps in the future stronger material will rear it's head.  He's definitely on top of some really astounding stuff when he's in that zone.  We'll see what the future brings, I would like to see this project become more cohesive with it's writing direction.

Paysage d'Hiver - Steineiche
Kunsthall Produktionen, 1998
Genre: Ambient Black Metal

1. Die Baumfrau
2. Der Baummann
3. Der Baum
4. Déjà Vu

I'm sure this is a band people have simply been waiting for me to review.  Well I have finally carved out the time to get to this monumental and genre defining release.  I'll explain why I say that in a moment, first I think my discovery of Paysage d'Hiver was fairly typical.  The first thing I heard was Darkspace and it was via that project that I got into Paysage d'Hiver.  The original demos just never showed up on my radar, even back in the 2000's and I didn't own a Paysage d'Hiver release until the CD version of "Shattengang" showed up in a distro I order from.  Despite knowing the band for years, it's only recently that I was able to actually find the rest of the discography, which has sorely eluded me for many years.  I have been fortunate that I was able to get their releases at the regular price and I believe the CD's are getting quite scarce, never mind the original cassette editions!

When it comes to Paysage d'Hiver one has to be fairly careful because the tracklistings on the different editions can be different.  For example the cassette edition of this release, "Steineiche", has the track "Déjà Vu" on it, but the CD version does not. I think the LP editions are closer to the CD versions, but I am not positive of that since I don't own LP's, nor have I compared the track listings very carefully.

Atmosphere has always played a major role when it comes to performing and writing Black Metal, it's one of the major reasons people are drawn to the genre.  Another genre where this is the most important is Ambient and it should come as no surprise that a lot of Black Metal fans are also fans of Ambient, so it only makes sense to cross these genres at some point.  However, for many years the outright blending of the two would prove a difficult task.  We got smatterings of things with bands like Limbonic Art, but they wound up being more along the lines of Symphonic Black Metal.  Usually the Ambient elements were completely separated from the Black Metal elements, if a band included Ambient at all.  Often times it came in the form of an intro or an outro.  I don't really think it's until "Steineiche" came out that someone really tried to blend them together, even though the different aspects were still a little separated.

"Die Baumfrau" opens with the sounds of blowing wind and transitions into some eerie clean guitar pieces with raspy, but somewhat spoken words over the track.  This goes on for quite sometime until the track suddenly launches into some very intense and vicious sounding Black Metal.  This song is nearly twenty minutes of near cacophonous Black Metal mixed with wonderful clean guitar passages.  The Black Metal riffs are simply spectacular and when you can make out what's going on it's clearly very strong material.  Wintherr has opted to use programmed drums instead of finding a real drummer, but a curious approach was taken in how the drums were mixed.  The drums are actually pretty far in the background of the music and you can barely make out cymbal hits at times.  The vocals can sometimes entirely dominate the mix and I feel like there are vocals going almost all the time.  I found the constant vocal aspect took away from the track because it overpowered some of the very strong guitar lines.  Even though the guitars are tuned quite low, the riffs are played in the higher range and reminds of Mysticum at times.  The use of the drum machine might help this reminiscence as well.  "Der Baummann" is a very different track altogether and develops very slowly.  The guitars are much heavier and thicker, but the pace is almost akin to Doom Metal.  This is where I think we really get an idea of how influential this band was for the future of this genre.  Look at The Ruins of Beverast and you can clearly hear Paysage d'Hiver's influence.  "Der Baum" changes things again and we hear a full on Ambient track instead.  The Ambient is actually very good and haunting.  It actually ends with female operatic vocals that set a very chilling tone to the end of the album.  This is probably why "Déjà Vu" was left off of the CD re-edition.  "Déjà Vu" is mostly wind blowing and then gives way to some other ambience, but it doesn't really help the feel of the prior three tracks.  In fact it actually feels less complete if you include this track, so I definitely understand why it was left off when it was pressed onto CD.

I have never seen the original demo, but they really went all out with these re-editions.  They packaging is large A5 digipk and it is housed in a black envelope.  Inside is attached some thinner paper that folds out to a picture of a snow-covered forest and the lyrics.  Aesthetically this works perfectly for Paysage d'Hiver and I would normally hate this kind of format, but it really does work well for the project.  These are definitely beautiful re-editions if you ever get your hands on them.

In the end we have an incredible first release, although ultimately I feel it is a little too ambitious.  While it really moved a genre forward and I'm honestly not sure if anyone did this before Paysage d'Hiver, but I can't think of anyone doing it this early.  The songs can come across as cut-and-paste at times with the way the clean guitar breaks up the Black Metal, but overall it didn't feel so disjointed that I hated it.  The recording quality is actually relatively poor, especially when it comes to the opening song.  It can actually come across as chaotic and noisy at times, but the second track works out very well in my opinion.  Either way, this band really started laying the foundations for a genre that would take Black Metal into another evolutionary direction while not leaving the main tenets of the genre behind.

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