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Album Review: Neverending Winter – Хиус

I have been told that ADHD runs in my family, so to say that the words ‘Russian,’ ‘punk,’ ‘folk,’ and ‘black metal’ all applied to one band grab my attention might be overlooking that caveat. It is my firm belief, though, that you don’t need ADHD to recognize good music, and I can confidently say that Neverending Winter are just that. The Tomsk-based four piece play an eclectic fusion of progressive, crust-influenced black metal with elongated bits of acoustic/folk melodies blended throughout. In layman’s terms: it is unique. There is a frankness in the band’s delivery of the songs on Хиусtheir second full-length, but that does not mean that this is your predictable, run of the black metal-mill affair that you might jot the name of down and remind yourself to listen to a couple of weeks from now. This is all inclusive listening that deserves to be fairly high on the to-do list of any trve metalhead from a band that has no business being this good.

With a name like Neverending Winter, you would not be in the wrong to expect frostbitten harmonies and lyrics that provide vivid depictions of iced over mountaintops, and while this is indeed most of the conceptual output of Heeus (the album title’s translation, which is how will refer to it from this point on), the songs themselves feel far more alive than the dreary snowscapes they often conjure up images of. The band transitions from aggressive, distorted riffing to hypnotizing acoustic suites and back again with the grace of a snake lunging in for its prey: mesmerizing to witness, but deadly nonetheless. Some bits, such as the early lead melodies in “Sib Ir,” almost sound improvised, and are something of a testament to how a band’s music can feel raw but refined at the same time. No matter how vicious the songs’ attacks get, there are always surprisingly elegant touches to be found through the group’s use of the flute, piano, and what I’m sure are other miscellaneous instruments that I do not know the names of. These are the moments on Heeus that I remember the most. The transition on “By Snowridges,” going from several minutes of intense blackened riffing and down beat drumming to a traditional sounding acoustic bridge before floating directly into the next song show off an album with a keen sense of craftsmanship and direction. No matter what route the band chooses to go with their songs, the whole record flows as an unmistakably singular work.

A ridiculously cheesy – but useful – exercise I tend to use to gauge a piece of music’s effect on me is to just close my eyes and see where the noise takes me. If all I see is myself sitting a dark room like a jackass, something is obviously not right. Such was never the case with Heeus. Neverending Winter flex their ability to transport the listener into a hectic and dark headspace while still writing music that never strays too far from its crust/blackened roots. It is more direct than let’s say Panopticon or Waldgeflüster, but still feels grandiose on a personal scale. Even all of the album’s interludes maintain a tight sense of forward momentum, an important factor when five tracks are spread out to nearly a half-hour’s worth of material.

There is a decent amount of talk across that cavernous place known as the internet about how if Neverending Winter were perhaps based out of somewhere such as Norway, Sweden, or even the US, an area where their music would be easier to distribute than Russia, they would already be making considerably larger waves in the black metal community. While I get where the individuals who make these claims are coming from, I find that to be somewhat contrary to this music’s identity. The truest metal is often the one you must search the hardest for. Well, search no further my friends.

According to the band’s Bandcamp page, a ‘heeus’ is a strong wind that usually comes in the winter time. This is one, however, that won’t leave you feeling cold one bit.

Heeus was released on 7/15/2017 and can be purchased digitally or pre-ordered on CD and cassette formats from Neverending Winter’s Bandcamp.

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