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WinterheartH – Riverbed Empire

Riverbed Empire
by Cherie Wong at 22 November 2020, 8:54 PM

On August 21, 2020, WINTERHEARTH released “Riverbed Empire”. WINTERHEARTH is a black/thrash band from the cold reaches of Norway, no, Canada. The band formed in 2008 and has released two full-length albums prior. WINTERHEARTH’s overall sound is a throwback to early black metal, at times melodic and at times a fast-paced thrash attack. There are several things that set this release by WINTERHEARTH apart from other typical black metal releases. One thing is the guitar solos, which aren’t virtuosic, but are solid nonetheless. Another is the addition of progressive elements that elevate the album beyond just another black/thrash release. I also want to give a quick kudos to Mark Richards of Heavy Hand Illustration for his artwork on the album cover that grabs attention with its coloring without losing that evil atmosphere.

The opening track “Marshlands” begins with the lovely vocals of Anabelle Iratni of DEVILMENT and an equally lovely piano accompaniment. Two minutes in, the black metal riffs begin, along with crabby vocals for a blackened thrash sound. A brief interlude with Anabelle’s vocals and an acoustic melody breaks up the lengthy track, before it continues with a guitar solo and more riffs. On the third track, “Sunset Over Winter Corpses”, a part that caught my attention was the blues-y passage in the middle. It’s not a typical incorporation into black metal, and it shows WINTERHEARTH’s desire to branch out and try new sounds, which I appreciate. Titular track “Riverbed Empire” features another guest: Hugo Doyon-Karout of BEYOND CREATION. If you’re familiar with BEYOND CREATION or any of Hugo’s other bands, then you’ll know what he contributed on this album; the fretless bass, of course. Fretless bass is an atypical addition to black metal for sure, but its addition to the instrumental passage in the middle of the track isn’t jarring.

Starting the second half of the album strong, “First Frost Harvest” is a mostly instrumental track, with only a few growled sections. The acoustic guitar sections actually remind me of OPETH’s dark folk-y acoustic passages. That’s where the semblance ends, as WINTERHEARTH does break out into their own musical compositions as well. “Charmed (By The Dead)” is a fairly melodic track that reminds me of the way early melodic black metal bands like DISSECTION and SACRAMENTUM blended melody and fast-paced riffage.

At an hour long, the album is a bit lengthy. However, the tracks differ from one another as most had moments that stood out. The “progressive sensibilities” of the album may not appeal to trve kvlt black metal fans, but it certainly adds a level of musicianship. Overall, I recommend “Riverbed Empire” to fans of black metal, both the melodic and the thrash leaning old school black metal bands.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Marshlands
2. North Star, Be My Guide
3. Sunset Over Winter Corpses
4. Riverbed Empire
5. First Frost Harvest
6. Beyond The Frosted Graves
7. Charmed (By The Dead)
8. The Shipwright
9. Infliction
Andrew Marsh – Guitar/Vocals
Lenny Carey – Bass
Brad Ivany – Drums
Record Label: Still Heavy Productions


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