Released: 2003, Head Not Found
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
This is actually a rerelease.
The frontman, Valfar, is deceased. The band is now defunct.
Really, it’s a shame; Windir sounded nothing like their peers, and yet they captured the Black Metal aesthetic perfectly—nailed it like the Christ child to a tree.
You see, long ago, Black Metal was not a sound. It was a scene. Most scenes-cum-movements begin this way. Take “Goth” for instance: It began as a collective of dour-faced post-punk bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus, and The Cure. None of these bands were “goth,” per se, and yet they epitomized the movement at the time. Eventually, as additional artists like Sisters Of Mercy, The March Violets, Gene Loves Jezebel, and so forth, joined the scene (or came to be admired by that scene), a loose summary of those bands’ collective sound or traits was gathered. Now, to be “goth,” you had to dress like Robert Smith, croon like Andrew Eldritch, and mope like Depeche Mode. Death Metal was much the same; in the beginning, it was any band with “themes of death” and a sturdy growl: Repulsion, Necrophagia, even Blood Feast or Kreator fit the mold back then. As the scene grew, the more popular bands became identified with that scene, and thus the scene became identified with their sound. Morbid Angel are undeniably Death Metal; but Death Metal did not always sound like Morbid Angel.
Black Metal—once the rock critic notation for bands of Satanic ilk and image—grew in size and power in the early nineties. Mayhem, Dark Throne, Emperor, and Burzum ruled the day (or better yet, the night). Being tightly knit, the scene produced bands of similar stylistic flourish. Before you knew it, the Scene was now a Sound. But in copying that “sound,” many a Black Metal aspirant utterly lost site of the aesthetics of the scene itself. They were “Black Metal” by place-card, not by ethic. But bands such as Dissection and Windir, who certainly resembled much of what was going on, content-wise, shot forth with brave new sounds not typical of the dank Norwegian basement sonics so typical of the era. They were “Black Metal” by ethic, and would let the sound catch up to include them—not the other way around.
Windir arrived a bit late in the game, some might say. But their legacy is significant: they really could have been the “next big thing” within the scene (a spot currently occupied by Xasthur and Leviathan, I might add).
Almost symphonic in scope, and epic in delivery, Windir ran the gamut from Setherial-style atmospherics to Enslaved-like Viking might. Sure, there were fast parts—but they were incidental to the coherent oddness of the overall effect. The production was huge; the songs were epic. The leads were fast; the keyboards always struck the notes you’d least expect.
Vocally, it’s more or less what the average Black Metal fan has come to expect, with the occasional Viking chorus and clean vocal part. The best comparison would be a blend of Enslaved with mid-period Emperor, and a heap of classic metal influences in the guitars. It doesn’t really do it justice to call it “Symphonic BM.” It is not. But it is Black Metal, and it is often symphonic in its approach. Every instrument stands out; every riff seems calculated. Dark atmospheres mix with clever arrangements to give the whole endeavor a uniquely pagan sheen.
The album works best as a whole; the individual compositions, while certainly acceptable on their own, are best appreciated in the sequence they’re presented. Windir made records. Enjoy them.