Winter – Into Darkness

By Gruesome Greg

On the occasions that I step out of my comfort zone and go to a metal gig where tempos typically exceed 120 bpm, mentioning that I’m into doom has lead to some mind-numbing conversations. No, I don’t like Opeth or My Dying Bride, and funeral doom is definitely not “too heavy” for me. But sometimes, someone who knows their shit asks if I dig Winter. A cult band in the truest sense of the word, the NY outfit put out one album in 1990 then promptly disappeared, with none of its three members doing much musically afterwards. That said, Into Darkness, their lone full-length effort (their ’89 demo was later released by Nuclear Blast as the Eternal Frost EP) has just been reissued for the fourth time, courtesy of Southern Lord, as the band reunites for a one-off gig at Roadburn. Despite the relative fanfare from the metal underground, this is the first time I’ve ever heard it.

“Oppression Freedom Oppression” opens the album, a slow, menacing instrumental that sounds like it was recorded in a basement, which only adds to its low-budget, horror-film creepiness. The death metal gurgle comes in with “Servants of the Warsmen,” and I’m less than impressed as it seems to drown out the instruments on this mid-paced slog. “Goden” slows things back down, with more of that basement black-metal take on doom, sort of a poor man’s “Forest of Equilibrium” (recorded one year later by Cathedral).

The way the slow, low notes are left to ring out and reverberate on “Power and Might”are reminiscent of drone, although this album predates the genre by several years. (No wonder Southern Lord picked it up!) “Destiny” starts off fast, but then descends into a snail’s pace that lasts throughout the rest of the record. Not much in the way of dynamics here, just painfully-slow, downtuned doom that drags on for miles.

I can see how this would’ve blown some minds back in 1990, but it really hasn’t aged all that well. Other bands have since taken the torch and left Winter sputtering behind with this lo-fi, depressing slog of an album that has more in common with the “gothic doom” of My Dying Bride than the true masters of the genre. Next time I’m asked about Winter, I can give the same answer I do to the funeral doom question: “Nah, it’s too boring and repetitive for me to really get into.”

(Southern Lord)

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.