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ALBUM REVIEW: The Great Cold Steppe – Windswept

Ukrainian band WINDSWEPT, enter the scene of black metal with their debut album The Great Cold Steppe. The band’s first album seems promising, written mostly by DRUDKH mastermind Roman Sayenko. As WINDSWEPT is one of Sayenko’s many projects, we can assume that he’s a pioneer of the black metal arts. Sayenko has participated in many projects such as the OLD SILVER KEY, PRECAMBRIAN and RATTENFÄNGER as well as many others. Infested with blast beats, punchy bass lines, piercing vocals and divine drum technique, WINDSWEPT achieve everything that’s expected of a good quality black metal album.

In the first track, Black Horizon Is The Gates Of A Blizzard, the ominous melody of a haunting music box is heard. This sets up nicely for the opening riff. The riff comes in with a nice blend of guitars, drums and bass which is followed shortly by grim, harsh vocals. Throughout the album, but more so in this track particularly, there is a variation in drum parts. The drummer keeps his drum patterns interesting with a variation between blast beats, double bass drumming and fills, showcasing his talent and sending the listener already, into a state of awe.

In Shrouded In Pale Shining, So Sleeps Infinite Ancient Steppe, we are at first bombarded with blast beats however, we are then suddenly soothed by more melodic guitar parts, creating an atmosphere within the music and giving the album a sense of character. Whilst many may consider black metal monotonous and boring, WINDSWEPT keep listeners occupied with emotional guitar parts, soul wrenching vocals and intense drum technique.

Although the production for a lot of black metal is a subject up for dispute, the production on The Great Cold Steppe has a provocative rawness to it, whilst also being brilliantly produced. Each instrument is heard clearly and profoundly. WINDSWEPT also recorded the album in only three days, with a lot of parts being improvised, making the production seem more natural than constructed. The band believes that improvised vocals and instrumentation exert a similar feeling to what is experienced from a live performance.

Improvisation definitely adds a sense of atmosphere to The Great Cold Steppe, especially in The Stars Are Cold and Indifferent, Sow Their Gleaming Ashes, when the ride cymbal is crashed and utilised to create a less structured, more emotional sound. WINDSWEPT prioritise this over consistent and regular sounds, being similar to that of other modern black metal bands such as WINTERFYLLETH.

This innovative, modern twist is certainly breath of fresh air. By combining the traditional raw black metal sound, similar to early MAYHEM, with the newer, more atmospheric sound of modern black metal, WINDSWEPT are able to create something truly unique. Although some tracks sound sometimes fairly similar, WINDSWEPT stay interesting by incorporating different melodies and different improvised parts. The Great Cold Steppe is easy listening, progressing with a flow. This powerful, soul stirring album is enriched with talent and character, becoming one of the great black metal releases of the year.

Rating: 8/10

The Great Cold Steppe - Windswept

The Great Cold Steppe is set for release on March 31st via Season of Mist. 

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