Paysage d’Hiver’s wintry world continues spellbinding power with plasma-freezing ‘Geister’

Photo by Hannes Bar

I’m sure the saying “Winter Is Coming” still stirs emotions from people who invested so much time and energy into the whole “Game of Thrones” world, though that feeling might be negative considering the disappointing thud of the final two seasons and the fact that the world is never getting those final books. It’s OK. Just let it sink in. But for black metal, that saying can mean something entirely different.

For long-running project Paysage d’Hiver, it simply means the world sole creator Wintherr birthed almost two decades ago remains alive, and new stories are set to be told, which they are on the band’s second full-length effort “Geister,” which translates to “ghosts.” OK, so yes, it’s technically the second official album after last year’s debut “Im Wald,” but Wintherr has 10 full-length demos to his credit and a slew of split releases, so it’s a stretch to call this the second, but from an official standpoint, that’s what it is. What we find here are 11 tracks spread over 70 minutes, each song constructed similarly with an opening that is awash in sound and screams and a finish that swims in ambiance. The record feels more like an 11-movement story where the riffs maintain some similarity that streaks through the production, making everything here feel tied together, almost like when the music finishes, you expect it to restart and create a giant, undying circle. It’s another astonishing piece of work that’ll arrest you heart and mind, leaving you frozen to your core.

“Schattä” opens with shriek strikes and winds whipping before the track begins to batter. Impenetrable thrashing and fury reigning combine as the vocals strangle, melody surges, and the pounding continues to make dents until noise takes over and washes into “Bluet” that unloads with a fiery gust and muscular riffs as the vocals scuff metal. The playing feels imperial as the band drives through wintry violence, while the shrieks eat away at muscle, icy backing thickens, and the track bows out to the night and merges with “Wüetig” that unloads with a hammering pace. The track unloads lumber and savage vocals as things get weightier, rampaging through great riffs that feel stitched with what came before them. The menace only increases as the playing envelopes and pummels before disappearing into smoke and toward “Undä” that delivers more spellbinding riffs and a sinister attitude. The track takes on a darker vibe as the shrieks continue to dump chaos eating away and rushing through, passing through a strange aura and into “Äschä” where the vocals attack and mar. The pain rivets and rampages through your body as the pressure continues to mount, and snows falls in blankets, and the snarling vocals feel like they’re creeping up behind you for a final attack, melting into sound.

“Wärzä” soaks in racket and lurching growls as the riffs crumble and smudge, and a strange miasma encircles you and makes the room spin out of control. Synth freezes as fiery vocals rip through your mind while things turn sickeningly hypnotic, crushing and dissolving into the winds. “Anders” delivers isolated shrieks and riffs racing, as the track feels utterly devastating. Speedy jabs and slaughtering playing unite as your bones are squeezed into paste, your brain is scrambled, and the tempo dashes like mad, bleeding out and into “Schtampfä” that unloads gurgles and massive shrieks, while the playing increases the intensity. The drums plaster as the guitars create a tornado effect, increasing barometric pressure, flooding and stammering out into noise and into the jaws of “Gruusig” that launches and rubs as nasty guitars have their way, and shrieks scrape into your flesh. The drums rip holes in the universe, noises rush, and the playing stampedes into oblivion, coming out the other side into “Schuurig” as a quivering voice emerges, and then the riffs land blows. That pace feels familiar and another slice of DNA from the overall story, bringing a wintry rush and eventually a doomy haze that only serves to darken your mood. The playing churns as the vocals sound terrifying, mashing amid chaos that drains out toward 10:09-long closer “Geischtr” that is a largely ambient final chapter. The track is built on noises rustling and stretching, blurred shrieks sitting behind the storm, and a strange stab that slips into the murk and disappears into a frigid vortex.

Wintherr’s bizarre and storied journey into the most frigid of worlds takes another violent twist on “Geister,” a record that’s sure to attract even more ears after last year’s “Im Wald” finally seemed to garner the attention Paysage d’Hiver always deserved. It’s getting warmer in many places in the Western Hemisphere, but no matter the temperature outside, your bones and blood will freeze in place by the time this record is over. This is another breathtaking chapter from one of black metal’s most prolific and focused projects, and this is bound to have zealots worshipping at its icy altar.

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