Released: 2017, Temple of Darkness Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Most one man projects suck. Cemetery Winds is an exception to that rule.
Based out of Finland and the brainchild of one Mr. J. Lukka, Cemetery Winds intersects a variety of old school death and black metal influences across their UNHOLY ASCENSIONS debut. The tunes have a definite Swedeath undertone to them, but less the usual Dismember/Nihilist/HM2 worship and more of the punchy Unleashed/early-Hypocrisy kind of approach. Mix in some Dissection worship, a pinch of PRIVILEGE OF EVIL-era Amorphis and an occasional nod to circa ’90 Paradise Lost and you’ve got a pretty impressive cauldron of heavy in which to draw inspiration from.
From the get go, the songs on UNHOLY ASCENSIONS present themselves as polished, well-constructed, and delivered with a level of confidence usually reserved for more established acts. Most of the album follows a consistent modus operandi; moody, Scandinavian heavy rhythms paired against melody lines that pull from either the Jon Nödtveidt or Gregor Mackintosh playbooks. Doomier tracks like “When Death Descends” and “Burials After Midnight” excel in this format, differentiating themselves as solid tunes that really sink their teeth into you. More traditional old schoolers like “The Storm of Impious Wrath” and the raging opener “Dormant Darkness” rely more on speed and big, chunky riffs to get the point across, but they still incorporate a healthy dose of melodic sensibility into the maelstrom.
And to be fair, while Cemetery Winds may be a pseudonym for Lukka, he’s invited some supporting players to help round out UNHOLY ASCENSIONS – most notably, fellow Fin and Sepulchral Curse vocalist Kari Kankaanpää. This dude’s death growl comes straight from the bowels of hell itself. Musically the tunes are imposing enough on their own, but the sheer weight of Kankaanpää’s voice elevates them to an altogether unholy dimension. The one piece that’s glaringly absent from UNHOLY ASCENSIONS is the lack of any real lead guitar work to speak of. If we had the foresight to tap some friends for session vocals and bass guitar work, I can't imagine that Finland has a drought of capable six stringers. Going back to the previous statement, the tunes are imposing and impressive enough at face value, but some slick Andy LaRocque styled leads peppered atop the raging riffs could've been the perfect finishing move.
That aside, UNHOLY ASCENSIONS is an impressive introductory statement for Cemetery Winds. It hits all of the ultra-heavy old school sweet spots while maintaining equal touches of class and complexity. I'm already curious to hear where the band takes us next.