After what feels like a decade of total procrastination / lack of inspiration on my part, I finally found a moment to actually sit down and sort out my personal feelings on WinterRealm's two releases, Twilight and Ouroboros. So where do my feelings lie? Well, it's a strange thing really because I still find myself lost for words at times - mainly because I know how much effort Aetas has put into his project, and how much the music means to him. How does this make me feel off put? Well, I can genuinely be drawn into the tracks and feel really involved in the disambiguation of the music, in pulling out the subtle details which Aetas has so masterfully worked into the core sound of WinterRealm, especially on Ouroboros, which seems a little more mature and focused than Twilight, and yet, there are times when I find myself completely separated almost immediately from the listening experience, like having my head severed from my body with a quick swipe of an axe. This is much rarer on Ouroboros displaying Aetas' growth as a writer.
Luckily, more often than not, I'm wandering the same solitary paths that Aetas is wandering. In regards to Ouroboros, it's one path, with my surroundings engaged in the cycle of birth, growth, decay and finally death that permeates the release. And while I felt that the portrayed their respective seasonal moods in both, "Summer (Conjuration)" and "Autumn (Manifestation)" both "Spring (Consecration)" and "Winter (Banishing)" were, to put it plainly, excellent in all aspects. "Winter" in particular had an icy feel, this sparkling chill as if everything was coated in a sheet of ice, a cocoon of lingering time. The inclusion of female vocals in this song worked excellent though their place elsewhere on the record I felt was out of place. Aetas' vocals on this track are also a highlight, as his rasps are emotional, intense and performed with a sincerity that you rarely hear from younger bands trying to find their way.
Compositionally speaking, Aetas is in fine form on Ouroboros. Every track is unique, interesting and more often than not, a journey in both lyrics and in music. Spring opens up the release nicely with a piano intro and some bird chirps which, I feel, could have been buried lower in the mix as being so upfront is a bit gimmicky but the song really moves once the guitars and vocals comes in with a great progression from the intro through the verses. There is a great melodic theme underlying the whole track. Aetas produces some fascinating clean vocals as well about half way through the song. Ultimately, this track really plucks the listener from whatever they were doing and plants them firmly into a world of bright sun, endless hills and constant time lapse imagery, with the entire life cycle of everything in motion. Summer is a good track but relies too much on Drudkh-eqsue mozying about and while this is appropriate for the track in that it does help invoke a sense of hot summer nights, it doesn't do quite as much to separate WinterRealm from the hordes of other bands trying their hand at the atmospheric black metal style. Aetas is above this I feel.
This is evident in Autumn's experimentation away from what other bands have tried before. Particularly the call and response vocal section between Aetas and the female voice on the album near the beginning and end of the track. Never have I heard another band attempt a call and response style section in this genre. What is more interesting is how well the idea works! It really creates a new dynamic to consider. Though I felt Autumn has the weakest melodic structure on the record, it has enough enticing moments to enjoy that it doesn't become a wasted track. Autumn only suffers in that it is followed by the much stronger track Winter which displays one of the best melodic structures I've heard in a long time, a great usage of subtle feedback, tempo, really all around a great song and one I listen to frequently. There is something on Ourobors which separates the tracks from what Aetas had already accomplished on Twilight but I don't know if I will ever be able to put my finger on it.
Twilight is a different beast, of course an earlier release, a more amateurish release for sure, but still, while there are flaws Aetas still released a strong album here too. For some reason I feel at times like I am listening to Auspicium when I listen to Twilight. Anyway, one major difference is that the production is much rawer and less polished than on Ouroboros which, is by no means a shining gem in terms of sound. The tracks on Twilight just don't seem to interest me quite as much. "Forever Longing" is kind of a sleepy track with some small ambiance though in after listening to it while considering the songs on Ouroboros, you can see how Aetas' style of writing hasn't changed. Other tracks on Twilight are similar, "Perdition (White Light)" presents us with Aetas struggling a little on this early release vocally, something he fixed greatly on Ouroboros. "Winter And The Spring" and "The Autumn Gate" are decent tracks but fairly forgettable. Whereas the tracks on Ouroboros all were unique and easily memorable, Twilight runs together a bit in this respect as evidenced by these two tracks.
The two tracks I did really like on Twilight are the two that are totally separate. The completely ambient "Fractal" and the outro/instrumental "Memories In Crimson Haze." Fractal is a really cunning listen with an excellent heartbeat and a slow moody vibe but "Memories" is my favorite on this release. It is a beautiful song. Whatever Aetas does next, I expect it will be a great continuation on the style he has developed. Also interesting to note is the packaging of Ouroboros which was really neat with some ashes and a bone included with the cassette along with a scroll with the lyrics and such. While some might think it is a little silly, I thought it fit nicely with the aesthetic Aetas is quite obviously trying to create for WinterRealm. My one complaint was that I had to find a properly sized vessel to hold the tape and it's package so it would sit nicely on my shelf.