What an album - that was my initial thought after finishing Winterhorde’s Underwatermoon for the very first time. This is the group’s second full length effort, a conceptual piece based on a story that their bass player Celestial wrote. The band’s sound is rooted within black metal but they take their sound further with a very progressive and even avant-garde edge. I guess for all intents are purposes this isn’t exactly going to sit entirely well with people who subscribe to the whole ‘true black metal’ thing because of how much the album stays into other territories. But for anyone else what we have here is quite a gem of an album.
Underwatermoon opens with The Shell, a short and very un-black metal type track, featuring only clean vocals and no growls, hinting early on of the band’s melodic side. The album features a mix of clean and growled vocals. The growls are generally flawless, but the clean can vary some. In The Shell we here them at their best, there are later moments (parts of the title track spring to mind) which don’t sound so good vocal wise, but the music generally strong and interesting enough that it doesn’t diminish the music so much. Some female vocals are also heard now and then in a backing sort of sense, adding extra melodic to instrumental sections.
Underwatermoon definitely isn’t a full assault of fast metal tracks either, as the next two songs, Wreckages Ghost and Underwatermoon prove. The band isn’t shy of throwing in acoustic parts into their songs and they are used to perfection on the title track which throws an unexpected soft and haunting section in the middle of the song. Elsewhere when the band is playing in a heavier style they don’t just thrash away in a repetitive black metal style, there’s plenty of technicality and lead guitar on offer. Lead guitar is something I personally feel doesn’t often work within a black metal context, but here it is flawless and doesn’t sound out of place at all.
Hunting the Human is the song, if any, that you may have become aware of Winterhorde by since there is a video for this song. A solid lead single that showcases many of the band’s elements and one of Underwatermoon’s more black metal style songs. The same might be said of later track Delirium, though it has more prominent clean vocals than Hunting the Human.
There is plenty of variety of offer on this album such as an occasional symphonic element to Winterhorde’s music, first heard in Execution within an extreme metal sense, and then straight after of the following track And Flames Wept to Heaven in a more melodic, yet still metal sense. This track serves as an interlude between the main songs, as does the later track Smoke Figures. The Curse of Gypsy follows and it’s one of the album’s best tracks and also one of the longest along with Tenth Wave and Farewell, though in the case of the latter it’s because there is a hidden track after a period of silence. The hidden track features some of Winterhorde’s melodic style at its finest so is well worth the short wait to listen to, even if such tracks are generally annoying. Why not just include this piece of music as its own track after Farewell and have no silence? Silly, but you can’t really blame Winterhorde, they certainly aren’t the first to this and they won’t be the last either.
All in all, Underwatermoon is a very strong album, and a work that the band can really feel proud of. This is almost close to perfect. I’m looking forward to hearing what these guys can do in the future.
(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 9.5/10)