Woven Into Ashes
Review by Raphaël on May 16, 2023.
I’ve been a fan of Vintersea since I discovered their 2019 album, Illuminated. Being a fan of the more atmospheric side of metal as well as the progressive, I was instantly hooked. Their sound is described as extreme progressive metal, which fits the band perfectly. They incorporate elements of atmospheric black metal and melodic death metal into their distinctive progressive sound. They are often compared to Ne Obliviscaris and for good reason. Their sound is quite similar, but that’s the beauty of progressive metal, you can have two bands navigating in really similar genres and yet sound completely unique. And now, here we are, Vintersea are releasing their third full length album: Woven Into Ashes on M-Theory Audio. I went in with a lot of anticipation and I have to say I am not disappointed. In Woven Into Ashes, they were able to craft an even bigger album than Illuminated, expanding on everything that made them unique!
The first thing that will probably mark you after just one listen is the voice of Avienne Low. You often hear and see lists of top metal vocalists and on some level it’s a question of talent but it also is a question of personal taste. With Avienne, even if you don’t like her voice, her raw and incredible talent is undeniable. As for me, you can say that I’m completely in love with her voice and will defend the fact that she has one of the best voices in the metal period. This album is a journey and her voice is the main guide, taking you from the fiery depths of hell, to the grimmest, coldest wasteland, passing by quiet and peaceful meadows where you are in the soft embrace of an angel to finally arrive on the top of a mountain.
The journey begins with 'Unveiling Light', a perfect preview of what is to come. The song starts with a few guitar notes, building up the atmosphere, until the drum groove begins, accompanied by the vocals. Avienne uses her clean voice, with an impressive crescendo that builds up as she uses higher and higher notes until the climax where there is a sort of CD skipping effect that cuts her voice for a few seconds and then it goes into a full black metal attack. With the traditional high-pitched screams and the blast beats on the drums. What is really cool in this part is that she immediately shows her range of harsh vocals, saying one line in a black metal scream and immediately switching to a deep deep death growl. And right there, after only two minutes, Avienne managed to showcase her immense talent. The song then goes into the chorus where Avienne’s showing once again that she can do it all, even managing to be extremely catchy in her vocal delivery. Have I mentioned already that she can do it all! For the rest of the song, it alternates between the heavier verse and the catchy chorus. All in all it’s a relatively short song, going just past five minutes, ending with energetic vocals followed by an impressive guitar solo done by either Jorma Spaziano or Riley Nix, I am not sure. What I’m certain of though, is that it’s the first of many incredible solos all throughout the album. It is melodic and super technical at the same time.
The next song, 'Devil’s Churn', starts quite differently. It’s a pure, meat and potato, death metal banger, with a bouncy, heavy riff and super low guttural growls. Vintersea are really good at crafting simple yet devastating music. Try not to headbang the challenge, difficulty impossible. After a good two minutes of neck breaking music, there is a complete vibe change, everything slows down and Avienne uses aethereal soft cleans, ending with, once again, a superb guitar solo. The rest of the song alternates between the soft and heavy parts and towards the end, approaching the six minutes mark, Avienne demonstrates her incredible range of clean vocals. Another song in the same vein as 'Devil’s Churn' is: 'At The Gloaming Void'. The song starts with an epic and long scream and then goes immediately into another bouncy heavy and catchy riff. It’s another one of those songs that will hurt your neck, but in a good way. It then goes into the chorus or it might be the pre chorus, because this song is a bit more on the progressive side of things, which means a more complex song structure and impeccable musicianship. The song features some complex drum work and has probably the best solo of the entire album. Clocking in at a full minute, it manages to be complex yet tells a story with its melody. The song ends as it begins with a catchy yet brutal riff and a long scream.
One of the biggest strengths of the album, and Vintersea in general, is the variety. You have pure head-bangers, like the two songs mentioned above, but you also have quite a bit of more complex songs, showing their progressive side. 'Parallel Duality' is a good example of this. It’s a longer song, going just over seven minutes, and it doesn’t have the linear verse chorus verse chorus structure. The first five minutes is an intricate combination of soft and slow parts woven with mid tempo parts featuring the best clean vocal performance of Avienne of the entire album, if not, of her whole career. The pure and soft emotions she can convey with a simple ouuuu and the fact that she can hold that note for so long, really gives you a feeling of softness and calm. As the song progresses, it becomes a lot more complex musically with great performances of Jeremy Spencer on the drums and Karl Whinnery on bass. You would think Avienne outshines everybody but on the contrary, her incredible talent is matched by every other member. After these great moments from the rhythm section, always accompanied by the voice of Avienne, the song starts to shift to darker territory. Her clean vocals are layered with her screams, shifting the mood immediately. After an impeccable solo, the furious blackened blasts beats commence and all of this is accompanied by super low and deep guttural growls. The kind that normal people would never suspect a woman to be able to pull off. And like a storm that came without warning, it ends as softly as it began.
The album gives you many other little curveballs that make the whole experience such a joy to come back to. Things you might not notice after only one listen, like on the song 'Lonesome Tide', where in the middle of a fairly traditional Vintersea song, you all of the sudden hear some kind of flute that sounds very much like a Seruling, a traditional flute from Indonesia. Since Avienne is originally from Malaysia, I suspect it might be that instrument. The song 'Into The Horizon' is a shorter ballad, coming with the amazing rhythm section and once again the beautiful and emotive voice of Avienne. The album ends with 'No Tomorrow', one of their longer songs, almost 9 minutes long. It starts with nothing but church choirs and later the same choirs are layered with Avienne’s black metal screams, which gives them such an epic feeling, it’s truly special.
So, since the beginning of the review, I only focused on positive things and that is because finding the negatives was really hard. I would’ve maybe changed the pacing of the album, placing softer songs more in the middle. The album art is once again made by Xenoyr of Ne Obliviscaris and it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that, for me, it’s not super aesthetically pleasing. And there you go, those are my only complaints, so I think it’s safe to say that this album will be in my best of the year list for sure. Vintersea managed to make a longer album than their previous work, while simultaneously cutting a lot of the fillers that were present before, like long outros and purely atmospheric sections with no real music. This album is a must listen for any fan of black, death and progressive metal.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10976