Windham Hell

South Facing Epitaph
(Moribund - 1994)
Like the sophomore release, this is a unique atmospheric blend of death metal and other elements. The tracks vary from technical flurries of death meal riffs and drumming, to dark ambient works, with plenty of acoustic guitar, keyboards, horror movie snippets and sounds, and menacing growls blended in. The sound is dark, mature, interesting and warmly dynamic like flowing blood, but as with the next release, there is a lack of composition and build-up. From the keen Yngwie-esque guitar solos, runs and classical influences, to the razor-sharp dynamic arrangements, to the original and interesting general sound of the album, this release screams talent; yet the gift is wasted on incoherence, masturbatory fiddlings with musical snippets and a general lack of direction. If you like really heavy instrumental ambience then you may find this very pleasurable (and there are about two exceptional tracks), but all I get from this every time is a highly unsatisfying, albeit interesting experience.
Window of Souls
(Moribund - 1996)
Another category defying band that can be precariously described as instrumental ambient-death metal with experimental/progressive tendencies and neo-classical guitar. Confused? Well, most of the tracks consist of numerous changes from heavy drumming and 'technical' death riffing, to acoustic guitar, neo-classical guitar solos and leads and even some ambient soundscapes. The album as a whole seems made more for ambience and mood, the death metal notwithstanding, due to the emphasis on the instrumental, the moody textures, the lack of a developing composition and of course, the ambient elements themselves. Even the sparse (and somewhat weak) death vocals growl more for atmosphere than for real vocal lines or lyrical aims. The majority of the music is instrumental, and the guitar playing is prodigious. The problems with this release however, are manifold. First and foremost, the composition mostly gets nowhere and just belts out interesting but incoherent riffs, changes and varying arrangements. At times, the neoclassical melodies clash with the death metal elements, and this together with the compositional difficulties, often come off schizophrenic. Other problems include the overuse of double bass drumming (especially in the neoclassical pieces), and an almost unforgivable weak interpretation of Vivaldi's Summer - one of the most aggressive classical pieces ever and something you should not be able to go wrong with. The last 20 minute track consists of the afore-mentioned Vivaldi cover and then 15 minutes of nonsensical sound clips and effects. In summary: An interesting album with great guitar work, some brilliant moments and a lot of potential, but in the end: a failure.

The Last Exit 1996-

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