WINTERHORDE — Neptunian (review)

WINTERHORDE — Neptunian album cover Album · 2023 · Melodic Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
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It's a rare album review where I can still remember certain comments I made about it years after the fact, but that's the case for me with the previous album of Israel's Winterhorde, Maestro (2016). I remember the spiel of excitement I formed my review's introduction around, talking about how getting certain albums in my inbox from labels or promoters would lead to that album being given absolute priority to. Maestro was one such album and naturally Neptunian (2023), generated the same excitement. Make no mistake about Winterhorde: these guys are damn good. I also remember how I ended that review though, lamenting how it had been six years since Underwatermoon (2010) and hoping that it wouldn't take another six years before we heard a follow-up. Turns out it's taken seven. I guess some bands just aren't going to be as productive as others and as they have been releasing albums of such a high standard, it was okay.

It was okay...until Neptunian.

As I listened to the album for the first time, I felt my excitement gradually fading, replaced by shock, confusion and horror. What had happened to the band that made those amazing earlier albums? What had made them deliver THIS as their long awaited fourth studio album?

(Sighs deeply, trying to regain composure)

Okay, so Neptunian isn't a bad sounding release per se. But it's an extremely underwhelming one that seems to contain none of the kind of special character I've come to expect from Winterhorde's compositions that made particularly the Underwatermoon and Maestro albums such a joy to listen to. The progressive flair that defined those albums seemed watered down to the point of being swallowed by the ocean's tides, leaving a melodic/symphonic black metal album behind that, while far from terrible, just isn't that exciting to listen to.

If this album were from a new band releasing their debut and I heard it they might pass me by with a few lukewarm comments about potential, but this is a new album from Winterhorde. They're a band which had previously figuratively put my jaw firmly on the floor with their progressive take on melodic black metal. Twice. The expectations for such a band are higher, as is the standard I hold them to, which also makes the disappointment in this case so much worse. Coupled with the waiting time factor of seven years, this makes Neptunian one of those things that does not seem worth it no matter what angle I try to look at it from.

And my word I hate saying that about this band, I really do. I bloody love these guys. I meant what I said in my opener to this review that they are damn good. I own all three of their prior albums and while I don't give as much playtime to their debut Nebula (2006), both Underwatermoon and Maestro get spun regularly. Unfortunately Neptunian just doesn't hold a candle to them, despite repeated spins in hope that it's one of those albums that may not wow at first but improves with familiarity.

Sadly it was not.
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Nightfly wrote:
2 months ago
Oh no, sounds disappointing. Loved the last one. I'll check it out for myself of course.

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