Over the course of 10 years and 3 full lengths, Winterhorde has made some legitimate creative leaps. The growth between their 2006 NEBULA debut and 2010’s UNDERWATERMOON was tangible; both sharing roots in symphonic/melodic black metal, but with its flair for the dramatic and adoption of larger orchestral movements, the latter album pushed the boundaries of presentation much further. Not content to sit on their laurels, the Israeli troupe is pushing those boundaries further still with their latest release, MAESTRO. A concept album that tells the story of a troubled fiddler who’s intent on proving his genius to the world, it’s a heady piece of music that bridges the progressive inclinations of late phase Emperor with the unapologetic theatricality of Nightwish.
Wrapped in themes of fire, obsession, and love that’s been lost, there’s a lot of story to tell. At just over an hour, MAESTRO is a very full album, but the variation of musical inputs keeps it from sounding over indulgent. “Antipath” has a carnival-esque quality that presents the duality of the central character through sympathetic strings and battering ram allusions to Satan. “Worms of Soul” and “Chronic Death” are more traditional blackened death pieces, but the occasional Theremin solo (I know, it’s awesome), dueling vocals, and jazzy outros provide additional color. For every burst of aggression, there’s a counterbalance of symphonic intrusion that makes for an entertaining listen; album closer “Dancing in Flames” is a great example. Weaving Mustaine levels of speed through an arrangement of Andrew Lloyd Weber proportions, there’s a cacophonous war of ideas that manages to somehow compliment the greater body of work.
Winterhorde’s press release suggests them to be the “next thing in articulate extremity”, and it just might be right – MAESTRO is a well-conceived and superbly executed concept album. Despite relative anonymity in the greater metal world, MAESTRO is an album that can hold its own against both the Arcturus/Therion and Epica/Nightwish camps. How many bands can say that?
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