Gather ’round cenobites, my hierophants, my lovers of the living rumbling sonicity, seekers of the divine resonance, spelunkers of the lower frequencies…
I have songs to be heard as ley lines, as tea leaves– these words, the hand that scatters them in your cup–
Here begins your travelogue, with I, your guide, your seer, Beatrice H. Virgil– lovely to meet you.
So begins the listening, stylus digs in vinyl, forehead on the floor, by the woofer, ears to the ground– facedown, gazing into vibration:
Aaaaand… dissonant monody! Into Darkness is a very dense sound–bass and guitar and frequent tom use (nearly as much as the snare– really think about that) give the whole album a homogeneous, “single” sound, like Sunn O))) or Earth, but somehow with more instruments seemingly involved– this weakening of shape, a mass of low frequencies and infrasounding….
First track, “Oppression Freedom/ Oppression,” a six-minute instrumental, at 3:15 starts the first of many bent simple power chords– layered into, clutched at, beseeching –like a moan, or a bleat– there’s howling overdubbed leads in the background–
“Servants of the Warsmen” and the album’s first syllable of “RISE” announces the departure of the instrumental before it– at 2:02 starts a solo like nails on a chalkboard, and at 2:15 we get the “Ooooh!” that could not be more like Tom G. Warrior–
One highlight, “Goden,” is mostly a phased/ flanged minor riff, a snare that hits between tom-rolling tribalisms, punctuates the undulating sonic weight… at 4:00 that upbent note with static keyboards, the single tom drum pounds– could this really be more simple?
“Power and Might” begins as they do, so slow it’s nearly backwards, but then D-beats off (hee) into the distance; Celtic Frosty, showing Winter’s punk roots; this instrumental segues into the Motorhead-ish…
…”Destiny,” track 5, which at 7:25 crashes into D beats again, with solo crashing toms: the emperor with burgeoning visions of His Return (from Elba…?); track 6, “Eternal Frost,” with his hand-of-doomy main riff….
The vocals are clear and high in the mix– they might be mono/bi-syllabic grunt collections, but you can understand them fine… their tone and most lyrical content like some ousted savage powerful ruler, Genghis Khan or Sauron, bitterly chewing words of his brooding reminiscences— a dethroned emperor? Ha.
haarp plays numbers like this– riffs with no tonal center: they wander and revolve in their eccentric orbits: I dare you to hum the home key of these….
Final track “Into Darkness,” a slow lurching patient rhythm, like a death metal breakdown section though even slower, at 3:50 finds the bass becoming very slightly dissonant, like he’s moving one finger slightly too far up or down, one way or the other– and this making an impressively heavy effect, like the song is gaining so much mass it’s too dense to move and is coming doooooown, falling into its own orbit –it happens again at 5:50– and at 6:30 a sudden “raked violin” sound scared yours truly shitless….
Winter’s tunes are not “low energy,” but “no energy”; live, they look like they’re delivering a speech about tax expenditures during the previous fiscal year– not to say, oddly, that they look bored: they don’t.
Aaaaaand: just like Hank Mobley wrote most of his best licks in queer/strange-ass distant keys like F# or Dd, just like Hank Mobley played swirling licks on the tenor that sounded easy but were finger-manglers when you yourself picked up the horn, just like Hank Mobley, when living, was famous only among the fellow musicians who knew his subtle secret, his quiet rebelling genius–
–Winter were (in this, an oldy reissue from the ancient 90s) doing some still-subtle stuff with those guitars:
The six strings are waaaaaaay down in the mix: strangely they’re least obvious, but still PRESENT as fuck, with a rare use of some stompbox phaser/ flanger, lending the sound cool dissonant instability– like it could shake apart at any time…!
Any at all…!
Tuned all the way down to A (eventual home of Yob and Salome): rarely pedal-toning the open chord (as in the main riff in “Am I Evil?” or Anthrax’ “One World”); their “Goden” doesn’t do it at all until over five minutes in….
This might be serialism metal– no real riffs in the classic sense of an ostinado, no real key centers, like they’re loathe to hit the same power chord twice… difficult to even find the tuning they’re using, because they so rarely use the open chord — you know this is SUPER rare in metal, especially doom– we live to hit the “BONG” chord, to fire up that open C# or B or A or Ab, to just let it sing, to let it hang out…
There’s a lot of patience in these riffs, even more than their tempi might suggest– the know they’ve got that open A to “BONG” and they’re stingy with its sheer power… but we love it when it shows up…
…don’t we, bitches?
The riffs are nearly all chromatic– inching by inch, stepping by step– so there’s more room to move, more freedom of expression (very punk, p’raps) in that many more notes “fit” the song than with minor and major riffs–Mr. minor mode is more ambiguous, since with more tones, more sounds available, they’re more potentially off-putting– your ears are all “Me no know where we’re going and me scared!”
Winter rarely speed, but musically speaking, they establish early on that Into Darkness can go literally anywhere at anytime— like how a horror movie’s different from any other kind, e.g., Director David Fincher’s saying Se7en, with the finding of the Goopster’s head, let you know this was not a crime movie, not a mystery, but a HORROR movie–
And had been the whole time.
All the members of Winter have punk backgrounds, but this isn’t punk doom– it’s doom in the most basic sense, with a minimalist, fuck-it, do-we-have-to-know-how-to-really-play-our-instruments punk ethic.
Vincenzo Galilei, Galileo’s dad, said:
“…in setting to music a sonnet… or other poem in which occurs a line saying, for example: ‘Bitter heart and savage, and cruel will,’ …many sevenths, fourths, seconds and major sixths [were] sung between the parts and by means of these, have made a rough, harsh, and unpleasant sound in the ears of the listeners.”
“Goden”‘s main riff is a grind between two chords right next to each other (a minor second). One of “Goden”‘s lyrics is this:
Hear the piercing cries, of the fourth horsemen in the wind.
Galileo’s pop Vinni was right. And this about 400 years ago. He saw Winter coming, baby. He laid out there, Nostradamus-style, the rules of earth-shaking tunage.
He knew music. He knew music was/is animal bones splayed suggestively, letting you know what’s what and what what will be… like birds on wires as notes on staves.
Words about music like Into Darkness are not criticism, not commentary: they’re translation! Interpretation!
Is that unnecessary? You bet ’tis, clyde. You with the ears should just listen, but there are words –like these– to get you to listen… like Zen training, like Shikan-taza… words to remove sickness caused by words.
Music students train to portray and project the “color” of a melody’s phrasing, how to change it, de-saturate it, warm it up– what is Winter’s color?
“In [Asian] music, for instance, a particular mode or even a particular pitch may become associated with a specific sentiment or humour as well as with connotative concepts such as winter, night, and blackness.”*
Winter are two fifth chords grinding beside to each other, moving back and forth. Sonic tectonics: Pangaea-cum-Gondwanaland and Laurasia via the first and second frets.
Boring? Yes– potentially very.
But we don’t listen to doom for change, we listen for its very lack of it: heaviness, mass, sheer density from inviolable, inevitable, and immovable objects… making sound.
Like approaching Winter.