The only downside to being a music writer is that you can occasionally get a bit jaded by the torrents of noise roaring through your skull. Thank arse, then, for bands like Winters, who manage to produce music that could crush your skull from 50 paces and still fascinate you from beginning to end. But how the hell do I describe them to uninitiated ears? When persuading me to cover the album, our Music Ed Phil called them âdoom by way of layered My Bloody Valentine indie by way of dream-popâ (sic). He had it pretty much pegged; the Scots do indeed purvey a surreal blend of doom and almost poppy-sounding rock which has a very mid-to-late 90s indie feel to it. He also told me that he thought Iâd enjoy it, but on that he was slightly off the mark. I fucking LOVED it.
The deliciously-titled Berlin Occult Bureau is Wintersâ second LP, their debut album Black Clouds in Twin Galaxies having been released in 2008, and itâs a very curious beast indeed. Goodbye opens the album, a short, nimble little song that showcases everything Winters will offer you in the next nine tracks. It begins in almost Pixies-esque manner, hopping jauntily along as Paul Fyfeâs soft voice chirps the verse. A word before we continue: if you come across the lazy critics and listeners who have drawn a parallel with Kurt Cobainâs vocal style, call âbullshitâ as loud as you can. Sure, thereâs the tiniest similarity in the way Fyfe picks his way around the angular choruses of tracks such as the opener and âSchwarze Kraftâ, but only as much as the endless other bands whose vocalists straddle that tuneful/discordant line. In fact, to my ear he bears a striking sonic resemblance to The Charlatansâ Tim Burgess; his gentle tones adding a dreamy touch to the album but also possessing the unassuming air of a serial killer as he softly assures âI can bring misery, I can bring hellâ before an immense riff knocks your head off.
Speaking of riffs, doom-pickers, youâll be pleased to know that thereâs no shortage of hefty guitar work even in Wintersâ bizarre sound. The title track is a sprawling piece of sinister psychedelia interspersed with moments of crushing heaviness; building up a crescendo at 3:30 before crashing out momentarily and then blossoming out into a beautiful multi-layered climax. âNo Tomorrowâ also opens with a beauty of a riff before sliding seamlessly into one of those bizarre light moments, sounding like it wouldnât be out of place on one of those 90s indie compilations alongside The Jesus and Mary Chain and Suede. Personal album highlight âAce Frehleyâ is a similarly curious track, an incongruously chirpy little rocker that comes on like The Pixies jamming with Smashing Pumpkins.
However, Winters apparently subscribed to the âsaving the best âtil lastâ philosophy when they decided to close the album with the monstrous âGeistkĂ¤mpferâ. It immediately flourishes into grey life, a grim verse riff embellished by a ghostly lead guitar that matches Fyfeâs vocal melody to spine-chilling effect, and then darkens down a few more shades into a sinister chorus and glorious bridge. An overlong outro does let the track down ever so slightly, but itâs one small flaw in an otherwise perfect album. Ladies and germs, Iâve discovered some gems while writing for OneMetal, but no album has excited me quite as much at first listen as Berlin Occult Bureau. Itâs an intensely heavy yet incredibly uplifting album, segueing between the fuzzy, ominous doom of the title track and more upbeat pieces like âAce Frehleyâ and âGoodbyeâ, and it definitely wonât be for everyone, but if youâre of the open-minded persuasion, I think youâll find plenty to enjoy. And, on a very personal note, if you spent the latter half of the 1990s listening to indie bands, itâll give you a lovely sense of nostalgia!