WINTERHORDE — Maestro (review)

WINTERHORDE — Maestro album cover Album · 2016 · Melodic Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Before I get into this review proper I want to explain something to provide a little bit of context: As a reviewer I get a lot of promos from many different sources. Some are from labels. Some are from the artist themselves and some are from promoters who deal with many of both of the above. But regardless of that when you're a solo reviewer as I am, it's unfortunately impossible to review every album sent out, so promos tend to get lumped into one of two groups; the group that looks interesting and gets downloaded and the group that doesn't, and so in turn doesn't get downloaded. However there is a rare third category of promo. The kind that when it arrives invokes an involuntary cry of 'hell yeah!', 'fuck yes!' or similar and not only immediately gets downloaded but also immediately gets listened to, regardless of any plans previously made, including the reviewing of other albums. They do not come along very often. Maestro (2016), the third full-length album by Israel's Winterhorde, is one of these albums.

Let's rewind a few years. It's 2010 and Winterhode have recently released their second album Underwatermoon. A member of the website I used to run back then has just introduced the rest of us to them and the band blew pretty much all of our regulars away. Fast forward back to 2016 though and we find ourselves finally coming to the end of the long wait for Underwatermoon's follow-up, Maestro. A lot has changed within Winterhorde in the six years since the last album, with only two members carrying over between albums, though Maestro does in fact see the return of the band's original vocalist Z. Winter who had been replaced by Horeph on Underwatermoon. Winterhorde have opted to expand their line-up with a second vocalist, Ig Kun, on Maestro though, providing clean vocals against Z. Winter's growls. It's not a shock move as Underwatermoon used a lot of cleans and on Z. Winter's previous outing with Winterhorde, Nebula (2006) they were a much more pure black metal band, something they transcended with Underwatermoon and continue to do with Maestro. There are also some guest female vocals on the album.

Where Underwatermoon was quite a leap forward from the more textbook like Nebula, Maestro feels more like a logical continuation of the progressive black metal sound that Winterhorde made their own previously. While the feel is a little different to Underwatermoon, it's clearly the work of the same band, showing that even with so many changes in line-up that the same musical vision is still intact. Winterhorde is drifting between the melodic and symphonic black metal standards across the album, but it's their use of other elements that really adds their edge, most notably of course their progressive way of writing but also their extensive use of clean vocals and also some less common instruments such as saxophone and theremin. Ig Kun's voice in particular changes the album's sound to that of Underwatermoon a lot as the clean singing on that album had this mournful, sorrowful kind of sound to them which worked well in context of that particular album, but did always come across as me as being a very acquired taste. The clean singing on Maestro however is much more accessible. Ig Kun has this soaring kind of voice that reminds me of when ICS Vortex was in Dimmu Borgir, except used in a more equal measure with the growling vocalist. Not that Dimmu Borgir is an otherwise valid reference when describing Winterhorde. This is many levels above anything I've heard Dimmu Borgir produce.

While Maestro can't replicate that initial wow factor that Underwatermoon gave me, it's still an extremely satisfying album, especially after the long wait between albums. Maestro, unfortunately, seems to have been one of those releases that was delayed quite a few times before finally getting here: I first heard that this album was on its way in 2013, slated for a 2014 release and it's now 2016. Some waits are very much worth it though, and this was definitely one of them. Winterhorde's writing remains as strong as ever, with standouts including the epic title track, Chronic Death and longest song The Heart of Coryphee. In fact it's so good that every time I've listened to it so far I've immediately gone back to the start and listened to it a second time. It's the sort of album that just commands an instant replay because even with a running time of over an hour Maestro just leaves me wanting more. Hopefully Winterhorde doesn't leave it quite so long next time, though with that said if they continue to produce albums as good as Maestro then any wait is worth it.
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adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Since I can't add this to the MMA page, here's the single from this album:

adg211288 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
I recommend listening to Underwatermoon in the meantime. Nebula is excellent too but they found their own sound with Underwatermoon.
Nightfly wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Going to have to check this one out.
666sharon666 wrote:
more than 2 years ago
This is definitely my most hyped album right now.


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