Released: 2007, The End Records
Norwegian melodic-progressive 'supergroup' Winds have returned, following up their brilliant 2004 release REFLECTIONS OF THE I with their third full-length, 2007's PROMINENCE AND DEMISE, an album which mixes a dizzying array of classical, neoclassical, symphonic, progressive, atmospheric, and dark-toned avant-garde musical styles into an impressive package and tops it off with well-written, intelligent lyrics. Recorded in bits and pieces over the period of the past three years, the new album is just as technically complex and superbly orchestrated as the band's prior albums but simultaneously more aggressive in sound and delivery than anything they've previously released.
Age Of Silence / Sculptured keyboardist and Winds central member Andy Winter is in fine form throughout the whole album, layering classically-based piano and keyboard lines in between and over the top of the largely midtempo prog metal rhythms, while multi-band veteran Hellhammer dazzles with impressive drumming and Arcturus / Tritonus guitarist Carl August Tidemann unleashes crunch-laden riffs punctuated by frequent bursts of blindingly fast yet melodically-focused shredding and passages of beautiful and complex classical and acoustic guitar. If Winds has a weak spot, it is in the vocals of Age Of Silence / ex-Khold bassist Lars Eric Si, for the midrange he uses to deliver many of his lines is somewhat flat and disinterested-sounding, seeming a little out of place amidst the otherwise superb musical assault. When he shifts to a more melodic, falsetto-based style in the quieter moments or goes for higher notes on a few tracks, he sounds fine, but his midrange could definitely use some work. Fortunately, his voice is often flanked by stellar guest performances including evocative melodic female vocals from Madder Mortem vocalist Agnete M. Kirkevaag, clean melodic male vocals from Solefald singer Lars Nedland, and even a few vicious deathgrowls from the legendary Dan Swanö on "The Grand Design." Those esteemed singers aren't the only guest contributors to the effectiveness of the album, however, for as on the previous two albums, Winds also has employed a string ensemble from the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra - not just for introductions or interludes, but often incorporating their music directly into the metallic mix, giving the overall sound even more depth and more of a classical feeling. It's difficult to pick out any particular track as a highlight as each song possesses so much variety within its own length, but personal favorite moments are the symphonic melodies of "Where The Cold Winds Blow," the maddeningly variegated aggression of "The Darkest Path," and the total neoclassical-meets-progressive overload of opening cut "Universal Creation Array."
PROMINENCE AND DEMISE, like its predecessors, is an album that requires a degree of intellectual commitment from a listener and multiple play-throughs to fully grasp everything that's going on in the music - this isn't an album you can just throw on and rock out to, which means its audience will be somewhat limited. That said, fans of highly progressive and technical avant-garde metal will find this album to be jaw-droppingly amazing and an absolute must-have.