This three track EP features one artist I am familiar with, and one I’m not. It’s the latter I’ll mention first, Paysage D’Hiver who contribute the third and final track ‘Schnee lV’ – the first two being supplied by the acclaimed Ukrainian artist Drudkh but more of him later.
Paysage D’Hiver certainly play their bit in this remarkable release that spans 41 minutes, the chill winds of ‘Schnee lV’ making up for the whole of the final 20 minutes. Introspective doomy compositions with a mind and mood of their own that stretch out as far as the eye can see are in vogue, American duo Bell Witch having recently released an album consisting of just one track that lasts over an hour.
So who or what are Paysage D’Hiver? Well just like Drudkh, Paysage D’Hiver is a solitary project, in this case created by Swiss artist Wintherr (Tobias Möckl) who also performs with Darkspace. Musically it’s black metal territory, not dissimilar from the likes of Burzum. An eerie cold wind circles during the early stages of ‘Schnee lV,’ which, as its title suggests, is the fourth part of Wintherr’s ‘Schnee’ project. The focus of this work is the Alpine terrain close to Wintherr’s home. A rapid heartbeat of a drum kicks in along with frenzied repeating riffage and scarred frosty vocal cries as the temperature plummets. After around seven minutes a more moody passage picks up the baton, the pace slows and suspense heightens as a black metal swirl circumnavigates this visceral aural abyss, reflecting the song title – ‘Paysage D’Hiver’ is French for ‘Landspace of Winter’.
Tobias has no plans to take this one man entity onto the live stage, so for now Paysage D’Hiver is a work to be experienced within the confines of your own home. Don’t turn the heating on though. This formidable frosty soundscape is best served cold.
Drudkh are no strangers to split releases, notably 2014 release Thousands of Moons Ago / The Gates with UK pagan charges Winterfylleth three years ago. For those who may not know the background of this outstanding artist, Drudkh is the visionary work of Roman Saenko and his steady stream of atmospheric releases have been integral treasures within the black metal underground scene for a full 15 years. Perhaps no longer a sole performer in the strictest sense, the no gigs-no publicity that Drudkh fiercely adhere to ensures Saenko remains the essential band lynchpin and figurehead.
‘All Shades of Silence’ is the first of the two dramatic Drudkh deliveries, opening with trademark urgency and inherent sense of anxiety and desperation with a wall of fur-lined riffs providing an impenetrable barrier before the tempo switches with Drudkh’s customary disorientating ease.
Drudkh have traditionally provided something little short of a historical tablet to accompany their releases, with scorching soundtracks frequently inspired by the work of 19th and 20th Century nationalist Ukrainian poets. That is the case here as well with the works of Maik Yohansen (1895-1937) providing the inspiration. Tragically, Yohansen died at the hands of a Russian firing squad during a period when Ukrainian intelligentsia and creative thinkers were targeted by the Russian authorities.
At the halfway point in this 13-minute opener a faint cloud of wispy sound stills things to allow for the gathering of breath and a chance to look inwardly, digest and reflect. As ever with Drudkh storm clouds are never too far away and gradually the sonic skies once again take on a darker hue. But the anticipated downpour is instead replaced by a deeper, doleful stretch of musicianship in which shards of light giving an increasingly rounded sound and feel as the tracks moves towards a close.
‘The Night Walks Towards Her Throne’ is Drudkh’s second piece, eight minutes in duration, and providing some wonderful moments of musical depth. The pace is lively, the vocals stretched and the rhythms mind-bendingly incessant. When it goes into a higher tone, it’s like a waterfall as the sound gushes forth, an unstoppable torrent of marvellous emotive waves that send the hairs on the back of your neck jigging like tiny trolls. Winterfylleth frontman Chris Naughton helps out with some clean vocals and as things rise to a rampant climax it’s as though the fierce winds are coming and it’s a desperate race to batten down the hatches. The final testosterone-driven choral chant adds an almost Orthodox feel.
The autumnal nature of this inspired union between like-minded artists is reflected in the artwork, a simple yet striking close up of a brown leaf with its spidery veins stretching out across the canvas. The summer warmth has dissipated, the frozen barrenlands are your home now and there’s no finer backdrop than these three wholly immersive compositions.