Immortal Souls – “Wintermetal”


Wintermetal_2015“Like a winter wind on a beautiful, frosty morning…heavy and aggressive, as fierce as winter can be combined with the white stark purity of snow in winter…the music of Wintermetal.  Those are some of the phrases used to explain the term Wintermetal and how it relates to the music of Finland’s Immortal Souls.  The band now in their 14th year together have released Wintermetal just in time for us in the US at least to get a final taste of winter before the spring.

Brothers Esa and Aki Särkioja formed Immortal Souls in 1991 in Kokkola, Finland as a band that played some rock mixed with doom metal.  As the story goes, the brothers loved playing music so much they didn’t even mind the long bicycle rides to rehearsals.  The self-titled demo (1995) and Reflections of Doom (1997) reflect the early days of the band while their current style first showed its origins on the Divine Wintertime ep released in 1999.  The wintermetal sound continued to evolve on The Cleansing ep (2000) and Under a Northern Sky (2001).  Many in the US were first exposed to Immortal Souls when Facedown Records released Ice Upon the Night in the US in 2004, while the original release on Fear Dark Records was in 2003. That was my first exposure to Immortal Souls and at the time it was a bit odd hearing them on Facedown Records, which was more known for punk and hardcore and not metal.  The double cd Once Upon a Time in the North followed in 2005 and one of my favorite metal albums Wintereich was released in 2007.  After a bit of a break, the band released The Requiem for the Art of Death in 2011 and now in 2015 we have their sixth full length album Wintermetal.

Wintermetal opens up with an intro track that really serves as a nice introduction to the sound of Immortal Souls.  Clean guitars play a somewhat haunting melody that is joined by drums and bass that sound a bit like those off Metallica’s black album before the guitars go full on distortion and metal and blend into the opening riff of the first single from the album “Calm Before the Snowstorm”.  For those not familiar with the term “wintermetal,” melodic and driving death metal is what one can expect from Immortal Souls.  Fast and pummeling verse sections with dark, growled vocals alternating with melodic sections that feature intricate guitar riffs and harmonies characterize many of their songs and is exemplified in “Calm Before the Snowstorm.”  The breakdown section at the end of the song was a bit unexpected for me but within the context of the song, it works and serves as a backdrop sound later as well.

“Dawn of the Northern Coldness” again starts out with some clean guitars playing a melody with a medieval feel to it, conjuring up images of castles, certainly an interesting touch.  The song has that death almost black metal guitar feel to some of the verse sections, reminiscent of Antestor in some way and the album in many ways reminds me of Omen by Antestor.  Granted Omen was a long-awaited return from Antestor and Immortal Souls have not been away that long, but in both cases, the bands have produced albums that are complete and full with songwriting and sound one would expect from veteran bands at the top of their game.

Production on Wintermetal is lush and full, heavy and pounding, and yet delicate when needed.  What really struck me on the album is the use of silence and the calm, softer sections that really emphasize the contrast in sound the band is capable of employing.  The previously mentioned breakdown-like section and quiet parts in songs like “The Trail in the Snow” display the craft and skill in the songwriting.  “The Trail in the Snow” is interesting as it is the first appearance of clean vocals on the album and they simply work within the song very well.  As one would expect from a band of this caliber, the performances are exactly where they need to be in terms of intensity and restraint.  This is a band performing with confidence not needing to prove anything.

“Northern Star” is perhaps the biggest departure from what I was expecting on the album with its heavy opening and overall softer feel with clean singing.  Now of course, “softer” for a band like Immortal Souls is still heavy but this song is likely to surprise a few people.  It is a bit of departure, but still has some very heavy riffs and double bass drum-driven parts to it that again provide an example of employing the quiet and calm to make the heavy have more impact.

If one song were to capture the essence of Immortal Souls on this album, I would nominate “Solitude”.  The songs starts out with a heavy, fast riff and rapid-fire drumming that slows slightly into a grinding melody for the verses, periodically accelerating back into full speed.  The drum work of Juha Kronqvist is really showcased in this song with the speed changes among the different sections.  This song as well features a heavy, driving almost breakdown-like section that has some great guitar fills over the top that really add to the power of the section and further add to the contrast between the silence and the sound.

Wintereich is simply one of my favorite metal albums and is a great example of what melodic death metal from the lands of winter can and should sound like.  Going into Wintermetal , that is the sound I was expecting and I was not disappointed.  Best of all, Immortal Souls have further refined their “wintermetal” sound on Wintermetal and have added some new elements that add to the listening enjoyment but still retain the cold, icy, heavy feel of the snowy, frozen lands.

Rating: 9/10

Written by John Jackson

01. First Snow of Winter
02. Calm Before the Snowstorm
03. Dawn of the Northern Coldness
04. The Trail in the Snow
05. Inverno
06. Snowstorm
07. Cold and Barren Land
08. Northern Star
09. The Grave of a Poet
10. Solitude
11. Wintermetal

Band Members:
Esa Särkioja – Guitars
Aki Särkioja – Vocals, Bass
Marko Pekkarinen – Guitars
Juha Kronqvist – Drums

“Immortal Souls” (1995)
“Reflections of Doom” (1997)
“Divine Wintertime” (1998)
“The Cleansing” EP (2000)
“Under the Northern Sky” (2001)
“Ice Upon the Night” (2003)
“Ice Upon the Night” [US Version] (2004)
“Once Upon a Time in the North” (2005)
“Wintereich (2007)
“IV: The Requiem For The Art of Death” (2011) [review]

Record Label: Rottweiler Records, March 2015

Weblinks: Website / Facebook

Buy the album here:
First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Lyric video for ‘The Trail in the Snow’

Video for ‘Calm Before the Snowstorm’



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