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Astral Winter - "Winter Enthroned" (CD)

Astral Winter - "Winter Enthroned" CD cover image

"Winter Enthroned" track listing:

1. Prologue (1:42)
2. Illustrations of Death (6:35)
3. Through Timeless Aeons of Frost (8:39)
4. Defenders of the Astral Kingdom (10:44)
5. At the Gates of Forgotten Prophecy (1:32)
6. Longing For Winter's End (6:23)
7. Beyond These Frozen Castle Walls (8:28)
8. Past the Realms of Eternal Ice (9:32)
9. Epilogue (1:47)

Reviewed by on September 8, 2011

"Swinging between frozen black metal mayhem and a melodic acoustic style, 'Winter Enthroned' is an incredibly solid debut offering from Astral Winter that keeps up the lo-fi old school feel without actually sacrificing the sound quality."

A debut album from a completely unknown band is always a cause for trepidation among the Metalunderground.com reviewers, especially in a genre like black metal, which is already filled to the brim with terrible basement recordings. In this case any fear was completely unfounded, as Astral Winter’s monstrous first full-length isn’t just good for an underground band, it’s just simply fantastic black metal, period.

Rather than being called symphonic black metal, “Winter Enthroned” could probably better be described as “melodic black metal.” Synths and sound effects are an ever present force, but not in precisely the same way as would be heard from Dimmu Borgir or similar bands. The band also knows how to space out the heaviness in between acoustic and keyboard-heavy segments for constant contrast.

Besides just the mix of acoustic and electric guitars, the handling of guitar sounds overall is a step up from many frozen black metal acts. From a bit of a melodic death metal sound to even a few bouts of virtuoso shredding, nothing about the strings ever gets boring. The screams and shrieks are placed low in the mix, and it seems like it was done on purpose so they blend into the music and become more of another instrument rather than a leading force. Those who prefer a crisp and clear vocal delivery may not dig it, but the end result actually works well with the overall tone of the music.

Finishing up the black metal package are the varying sound effects, which add in new layers to the music. “Defenders of the Astral Kingdom” is of particular note, with its gothic keyboard output that almost has a video game quality. “Through Timeless Aeon of Frost” goes more epic with the keyboards, taking a bigger symphonic turn than on other tracks.

Swinging between frozen black metal mayhem and a melodic acoustic style, “Winter Enthroned” is an incredibly solid debut offering from Astral Winter that keeps up the lo-fi old school feel without actually sacrificing the sound quality.

Highs: Mix of the melodic and the heavy works well in the frozen black metal atmopshere.

Lows: Vocals may be a bit too low in the mix, and a little more variation in the vocals wouldn't hurt

Bottom line: An unexpectedly awesome melodic black metal debut album.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)