Album Review – Winterhymn / Blood & Shadow (2016)

If your fearless heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, you’ll definitely enjoy this excellent compilation of songs perfect for your mead-drinking and mud-fighting parties.

Rating4

Blood&Shadow_FrontAlthough I couldn’t see Pagan/Folk Metal squad Winterhymn kicking ass live during Paganfest America Part V here in Toronto in 2014 due to traffic issues (as you can read HERE), I went after their music to get to know more about this American sextet, and let me tell you I was impressed with the energy, passion and creativity flowing from their symphonic and progressive compositions. With that said, I guess I don’t need to mention how excited I got when I received their brand new album for review, the melodious Blood & Shadow, right?

Since their inception in 2009, these folk metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio have been bringing the epicness of Celtic and Scandinavian Folk sounds to the United States, starting with their 2011 debut album Songs for the Slain until this year’s Blood & Shadow, also sharing the stage with renowned names like Eluveitie, Turisas, Chthonic, Arkona and many others. Featuring a beautiful and sanguinary artwork by Irish artist Vasilis Zikos, reflecting a scene from Winterhymn’s personal mythos (which the album is entirely based upon), Blood & Shadow is the soundtrack for drinking lots of mead and getting in random fights in the mud around a bonfire, all embraced by the undeniable talent of four brave lads and two stunning maidens.

Blending elements from Folk and Black Metal with hints of Power Metal, the melodic battle chant Blood of the Moon kicks off the album on a high note by bringing forward a very epic rhythm with highlights to the mesmerizing sound by violinist Umbriel, followed by Dream of Might, which leans towards pure Folk Metal. Albeit slower than the opening track, it still offers a high dosage of epicness, with the vocals by lead singer and guitarist Draug being perfectly complemented by the pounding drums by Valthrun and the once again incredible violin sounds by Umbriel. And the outstanding Pagan Metal composition Blood Burner is one of those songs tailored for fans of vicious battle chants who love to slam into the circle pit with a pint of cold beer in hand, with Draug and Varrik providing some exciting riffs and solos while Valthrun doesn’t let the amazing energy in the music go down.

Less violent and with a more progressive flow (but still very impactful), Legacy in Flames offers lyrics about the everyday life of a warrior nicely declaimed by Draug and bassist Alvadar (“We hunt our prey / With our last breath / By the sanguine moon / Through realms of death / So curse our name / You’ll be slaughtered all the same / Your legacy in flames”), with its last part being highly recommended for prancing around a fire pit with a pint of mead; whereas The Summoning displays a higher focus on Death Metal guttural vocals while instrumental is purely Folk Metal, a good balance that works well for a while but that unfortunately falls flat close to the end of it. Seafarer, a “Middle Earth-inspired song”, is a semi-acoustic ballad where violin and acoustic guitars generate the perfect atmosphere for Draug and his clean vocals, a soulful break from the band’s traditional battle hymns before Silenced by the Northern Winds gets back to brutal folk music with Draug leading the band’s onrush with his imposing growls, boosted by an excellent guitar solo to properly conclude this thrilling tune.

zGroup (22)In Shadow We Ride, another classic Folk Metal tune by Winterhymn, offers the listener slower beats and a fighting vibe, with its second half getting slightly heavier and, consequently, adding some extra flavor to the overall result (especially the potent bass lines by Alvadar). And in Huntsman, a serene intro morphs into brutal Pagan Metal, with its lyrics being everything a fan of this type of music loves (“They marched across the Iron Jaw with sword and helm / Seeking fabled woodland doorways to the twilight realms / The proudest of their captains are now hunted like boars / Their banners lie in gory pools upon the forest floor”). Moreover, all instruments sound potent and sharp, accrediting it to be one of the best songs of the new album for their live performances.

The final triad of Folk Metal in Blood & Shadow begins with the electrifying The Wolf’s Head, where Death and Power Metal elements arise. The song’s riffs and solos, together with the precise drumming by Valthrun, set the music on fire, with both guttural and clean vocals and the background sonority crafted by Umbriel and Exura on violin and keyboards, respectively, being absolutely outstanding. Into the Depths shows the whole band still has enough fuel for more Epic Pagan Metal, which after a solid intro gets heavier than almost everything from the album, not to mention the heroic singing by Draug. And lastly, Umbriel dictates the rhythm through her fast and melodious violin in The Chosen End, where all band members unite to provide the listener a full-bodied composition overflowing courage, passion and pain, a climatic ending for such a professional album.

If your courageous heart claims for top-notch Epic Folk Metal, go check Winterhymn’s Facebook page, as well as their YouTube channel and ReverbNation page, and don’t forget to buy their new album at the SoundAge Productions’ webstore, at the band’s BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. As aforementioned, there’s no better way to get drunk with mead and engage into mud-fighting than to the sound of such an amazing band like Winterhymn.

Best moments of the album: Blood Burner, Silenced by the Northern Winds and The Wolf’s Head.

Worst moments of the album: The Summoning.

Released in 2016 SoundAge Productions

Track listing
1. Blood of the Moon 3:48
2. Dream of Might 3:59
3. Blood Burner 3:19
4. Legacy in Flames 4:51
5. The Summoning 4:12
6. Seafarer 3:20
7. Silenced by the Northern Winds 6:53
8. In Shadow We Ride 4:47
9. Huntsman 5:23
10. The Wolf’s Head 3:39
11. Into the Depths 6:25
12. The Chosen End 4:31

Band members
Draug – vocals, lead guitar
Varrik – guitar
Alvadar – bass, backing vocals
Exura – keyboards
Umbriel – violin
Valthrun – drums

Album Review – Verment / Death’s Domain EP (2016)

These up-and-coming metallers from Cincinnati, Ohio will show you how Death Metal can easily embrace elements from all other genres and subgenres of heavy music without losing its essence, always remaining loyal to its violent and gruesome roots.

Rating5

Deathsdoamin COVER HiDischarging their fast and furious Death Metal directly from the city of Cincinnati, Ohio to the entire world since 2012, American metallers Verment are ready to attack once again with their brand new EP entitled Death’s Domain. If you’re a fan of bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, The Black Dahlia Murder, Suffocation and Angelcorpse, let me tell you that you’ll definitely have a very good time during the 24 minutes of deep vociferations, crushing beats and blazing riffs found in this unrelenting 7-track album.

Although some of the band’s main influences are purely Death Metal, Verment do not stick only to that genre of heavy music in their compositions, blending elements from Thrash, Melodic Death and even Blackened Death Metal in their musicality, not to mention they also add a modern twist to their sounding in order to sound fresher and more impactful than other regular Death Metal bands. And if you’re good at “deciphering” what lead singer and bassist Eric Payne is vociferating throughout the entire EP, your experience listening to Verment will become even more interesting than expected.

And the band is not kidding when they say they’re not purely Death Metal, as the excellent opening track Casket Fever is actually a bit more Thrash than Death Metal per se. Moreover, the growling by Eric Payne is full of anger and perfectly represents the message in the lyrics (“Exhuming corpses in the darkness / Taking from the hand of death / All to please the inner demon / That is keeping me from rest”), with the clean and melodic solos by Dustin Stockhoff bringing a welcome harmony to the music. That blustering fusion of extreme music subgenres also work really well in Amon’s Wrath, where Black and Death Metal are put together in a neck-breaking tune made to listen at top volume, full of violent riffs by Nick Moeller while drummer Alex Hooper is as heavy and precise as he can be behind his drum set.

VermentWings of Bone, which is perhaps the most Death Metal song of all, offers the listener two and a half minutes of brutal and technical devastation flawlessly led by Nick and Alex, with both deep guttural and sharper demonic growls by Eric being spot-on; while Vile Incisions leans towards more traditional Death Metal, especially due to its technical riffs and solos. In addition, Eric’s screams match perfectly with all instrumental pieces, with the last part of the song being a demented feast of blast beats commonly found in old school Black Metal. And get ready for the insane circle pits that will be generated by Obsolescence Reality, which has that constant metallic rhythm we all love in Death Metal, but with the addition of some nice breaks to add more flavor to it.

Before the album is over, their Thrash Metal vein returns in Chemical Indoctrination, without of course being less Death Metal than expected. It’s a faster and more straightforward tune where both Dustin and Nick have amazing performances with their riffs and solos, providing Eric all he needs to fire his hostile screams. And lastly, Parade of Filth closes the album in a solid way showcasing putrid lyrics that are the nightmare of every soccer mom (“It’s quite a sight to behold / All walks of life convening / It makes me sick to see this rotten malánge / Flesh folding over, repulsive odor / I am no better but I certainly do not reek of shit”), while Alex displays all his darkest abilities during the song’s almost four minutes. In other words, this is basically the opposite of mainstream, which means diehard fans of old school Death Metal will love it.

Whether you’re a hardcore Death Metal fan looking for a new addition to your collection of aggressive hymns, or a not-so-delicate soccer mom who felt significantly insulted when I said the music by Verment might be one of your worst nightmares, go check their Facebook, SoundCloud and ReverbNation for more of their venomous music. Death’s Domain, which can be purchased at the band’s BandCamp page, will show you once again why Death Metal is, and will forever be, the only type of extreme music that can easily embrace elements from all other genres and subgenres of heavy music without losing its essence, always remaining loyal to its roots.

Best moments of the album: Casket Fever and Wings of Bone.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Casket Fever 3:18
2. Amon’s Wrath 3:26
3. Wings of Bone 2:31
4. Vile Incisions 3:27
5. Obsolescence Reality 3:41
6. Chemical Indoctrination 3:30
7. Parade of Filth 3:47

Band members
Eric Payne – vocals, bass
Dustin Stockhoff – lead guitar
Nick Moeller – rhythm guitar
Alex Hooper – drums, backing vocals