Israel’s Winterhorde could be taken as an emblem of what is meant by artistic progression: having started out as a band dedicated to symphonic black in the footsteps of Dimmu Borgir et similia (Nebula, 2006) and then moved on to a partially more evolved and avant-garde form, but still linked to traits of extreme matrix (Underwatermoon, 2010), they finally come full circle with Maestro, through which, almost in deference to the title chosen, they give a spectacular and surprising lesson lasting over an hour based on progressive music in the truest sense of the term. The symphonic heritage remains strongly connected to the compositional structure of the Middle Eastern group but, in this case, it constitutes a fabric that wraps and enriches the work as a whole rather than representing the classic effect solution aimed only at masking, in many works, large creative gaps. The achievement of such a result does not come by chance and one of the keystones was certainly a heavy retouching of the line-up that has seen, in particular, the entry into the formation of the singer Igor Khazar Kungurov, who, with his beautiful clean tones duel incessantly with the scream / growl of the vocalist and founder Z. Winter, finalizing the brilliant work of a band capable of ranging with a disarming ease between different stylistic nuances without ever weighing down the listening. Those who have had the chance to listen to that masterpiece entitled Blessed He With Boils by the American band Xanthochroid will find many similarities, especially in the more accelerated passages and in certain sudden atmospheric openings, but Winterhorde have a more classic trademark, which can even be traced back to Savatage / Trans Siberian Orchestra in the frequent orchestrations and is in any case less extreme, with a constant search for melody that doesn’t need to resort to dissonance or striking effects to attract the listener’s attention. I realise, writing about it, how complex it is to try and describe this album in words, so I will limit myself to saying that anyone who professes to be a lover of good music must carve out, at least for a while, an hour a day to fully grasp every nuance and enjoy without distraction a work that is unlikely to drop out of this year’s top ten. Even mentioning one track rather than another is difficult, as Maestro is a work of rare qualitative compactness, in which not a note is wasted that is not functional to the final result: forced to choose between so much abundance, I opt for The Heart Of Coryphee, the longest track of the work and the one that I would make someone listen to if he asked me to propose a fragment of the album to get an idea of it, while all in all the least brilliant track is the final Dancing In Flames, because of certain circus veins that have never been in my heart. Maestro is the album that brings Winterhorde to levels unexpected to most: probably the time elapsed since the last long-distance work has been used to focus and finalize the objectives in the best possible way, demonstrating that almost always the haste is the enemy of quality; all that remains is to enjoy this wonderful work with the hope that it is just the beginning of a new phase in the career of the Israeli band.
2016 – ViciSolum Productions