Album Review: Winterblade - Long Nights
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Whilst this is a contemporary release, Winterblade’s Long Nights is very much located many centuries ago. The retro Viking sound comes surprisingly, not from the frozen lands of the North but from Norfolk, Virginia. The work of a single musician called Alex Waters; the project was born in 2018 when Waters apparently crafted a single song for his girlfriend. Now, two years later, we receive 39 minutes of old Norse anthems which source influences from subjects as wide as the TV show Vikings, The computer game ‘The Elder Scrolls’ as well as more traditional sources such as the Skaldic poets.
Whilst the themes of ‘Long Nights’ are set in a time long ago, the music is very much centred around the melodic death metal of 21st Century bands like Enisferum, Amon Amarth, Eluvietie and Tyr. Utilising in-depth programming alongside his own guitar, bass and vocals, Waters has provided a raw yet somehow warming album. It’s not the most balanced in production, with the levels slightly off at times. The vocals vary between the good – the cleans and throaty roars and the ropey – the death growls are not brilliant by any stretch. Musically, there is enough to maintain the interest. The opening track ‘Sacrifice’ for example, is a brooding introduction which could easily be part of the Vikings soundtrack. ‘Ironside’, about the character Björn Ironside is anthemic; the penultimate track ‘Shieldmaiden’ honours the female fighters is almost electro in its tempo, a gentle riff playing underneath Waters rough vocals.
Elsewhere, Waters uses multi-layered chanting on the riff heavy ‘The Walker’, a gnarly black metal mutation, with at least four different styles of vocals combining. It’s interesting but I’m not sure that it works fantastically well. It’s a little schizophrenic and disjointed. Ultimately, ‘Long Nights’ doesn’t quite reach the heights that it was aiming for but if you want to pass 40 minutes whilst dreaming of a time synonymous with many of the themes in the metal world, then this isn’t a bad way to do it.