Russian multi-instrumentalist, Alex Evensen, is a newcomer on the black metal scene, having released his debut record under the name of Frostnatt in 2021. He’s by no means a hermit who releases new music in between long periods of inactivity. Indeed, since 2019, Frostnatt have produced five EPs of instrumental noise terror. This makes his new Wintermorph project with vocalist, N., even more intriguing. Is this a new variant on the black metal of his solo work?
Wintermorph’s debut three-track EP is a record you must explore with headphones. Then you can discover the intricacies of Evensen’s thought process and admire his obsessions. Opener, ‘Flames’, starts with a fade-in of foreboding arpeggios that writhe like salted wounds. You can hear latter-day Darkthrone in the tempo and tone of the guitars, not least in the ear-grating amp distortion that sounds like it could be straight from the rehearsal room as a one-take recording. Of course, this is not the case, but it shows the mood Evensen hopes to create here. Those of you hesitant about instrumental music will prefer Wintermorph to Frostnatt. N.’s vocals are more hostile than the front-line guards on the Indian-Chinese border. Listen how the rasp in his voice sizzles with the type of aggression that will become murderous if it finds no outlet for release. It makes the reset at the half-way point to a pitter-patter of rain samples and piano sprinkles even more surprising. Many artists would struggle to ramp up the tempo from here, but Wintermorph demonstrate a good ear for dynamic uplift in the way they end the song in a post-metal rage.
Standout track, ‘Ashes’, is almost too clever. A looped e-bow effect gives way to the type of high-register melody Woods of Ypres perfected before the untimely death of David Gold in 2011. It could almost be a gothic metal event if not for the abrasive growl vocals and space effect of the rhythm guitars. The tension at the end will remind you of Wolves in the Throne Room, but the guitar hook at the heart of the song is worthy of Paradise Lost’s rehabilitation in the late 2000s. You can envisage the Cubase screen in front of you when Evensen brings the screeching loop back for the dropout at 03:20 seconds. How many hours must he have spent on this one section? The attention to detail does not go unnoticed.
Nothing tarnishes the listening experience here, but you might wonder if closing track, ‘Trails’, needs to extend beyond six minutes. As the most upbeat composition, it could do everything it wants in five minutes. The blast beats and hardcore vocals are welcome, and the post-metal angle never grows tired. You can hear shades of Mayhem in their Esoteric Warfare era, but it needs more unforeseen tangents and diversions to dazzle you. Nevertheless, the progressive spaces among the chaos will invite repeat listens.
Russia’s black metal scene is one of the least-known in the world, but Alex Evensen is a name to look out for in the future. The prospect of a full-length Wintermorph album is one that should excite you.
Release Date: 21/12/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Ashes
Suggested Further Listening: Woods of Ypres – Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light (2013), Darkthrone – Eternal Hails… (2021), Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage (2011)