Winter Storm are a female-fronted symphonic metal band whose name crops up reasonably often on the Midlands metal scene. They’ve been around for a goodly while and despite being plagued by Spinal Tap-esque drummer-related lineup changes have garnered numerous respectable support slots. I’ve even seen them a couple of times, although never in a venue with good enough sound to get a true measure of them.
Now, before I go on I must confess that I don’t actually like symphonic metal, or ‘chick-metal’ as the female fronted variety is often disparagingly referred to. It tries for the epic and grandiose and all too often just ends up sounding bloated and pompous, so I really wasn’t sure if I was the right person to review this album – but before Winter Storm arrive at my house armed with an ominous collection of blunt instruments, let me go on to say just how pleasantly surprised I was by this, their debut full-length.
There is some really nice use of dynamics on offer here that you don’t often get in symphonic metal. Winter Storm have some finely crafted arrangements that skilfully avoid the usual chick metal trap of trying for ‘all epic – all the time’ and crucially know when to bring in keyboards and texture and when to let things get a bit more minimal. The album is shot through with doomy hints of melancholia – the intro of ‘Inner Demon’ for example, is straight out of the Opeth Book of Songwriting, with reflective clean arpeggios underpinned by synths – and it provides the furious bridge and coda with the space they need to pick the song up when they arrive. Frontwoman Hannah is also a very capable vocalist, effortlessly switching between an epic belt and gloomy introspection as and when the songs require. She also has some very interesting melodies on offer, use of minor scales and carefully chosen harmonies adding an eastern flavour to some parts, most notably in ‘Firedancer’ and ‘Internal Storm’.
Serenity in Darkness is a musically pleasing record, but it isn’t all roses. The production is somewhat questionable. As someone who thinks symphonic metal in general is over-produced I actually like the fact that this is rough around the edges, but a connoisseur of the style might turn their nose up at the less polished sound. In particular, the driven guitars sound very woolly and saturated, and the bass is actually disgusting, alternating between a dull lifeless thump (see the intro of ‘Firedancer’) and a squawky nasal twang (see the bridge of ‘Inner Demon’). The bass is also a bit all over the place, seemingly oblivious to what the drums are doing (the bass-playing cardinal sin, in my opinion). The lo-fi stringed instruments provide an odd contrast to the sterile and triggered drums, the kick in particular being far too clicky for my taste. The production is somewhat saved by the overall clarity and separation in the mix, and despite my above complaints is very respectable for a debut full length.
I’d definitely recommend this to any fan of symphonic metal, and even the prog and doom fans are likely to find something they like here. A well rounded debut outing from Winter Storm.
Winter Storm’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/winterstormuk