Every once in awhile, like the imperfect human being that I am, I allow life to get in the way of things. Never intentionally, but it happens nonetheless. Spell of Dark’s Journey Into the Depths of Winter is an album I’ve been meaning to talk about for some time, but whenever I’m about to sit down and do it, something gets in the way. Which is unfortunate, because Journey is quite the album. Atmospheric black metal is a personal favorite of mine, and on Journey, Spell of Dark manage to hit many of the right buttons.
We get things started with “The Breath of Cold Silence.” Right off the bat, listeners are greeted by a not-quite-fuzzy, not-quite-sharp guitar tone. The guitar lays down a series of layering riffs with a rather pleasant cascading effect. The mood here definitely seems to be more one of wanderlust than melancholy, as Spell of Dark never dip into the hyper-depressive territories occupied by such bands as Coldworld and Black Autumn. The vocals are exactly what youèd expect them to be, harsh wails occupying their designated place at the back of the album’s mix, at times sounding like voices carried by the wind, or even a ragged whisper in your ear. It’s a creepy effect, but one you’ve most likely heard myriad of times before if you’ve spent any time digging into the heaps of atmospheric black metal that lives on Bandcamp.
Track number two, “Frozen Lands and Horizons,” shakes things up a bit by opening with a rather solemn clean guitar melody. It’s a brief, yet effective mood-setter that quickly transitions into the downtrodden blackened riffs that make up the body of the song. Whereas the riffs on track number one seemed to build upwards, when track number two’s riffs crash over top of each other, each one is heavier than the last, almost as if you’re being buried under layers and layers of frosty slush. It’s a nice effect, acts as a counterweight to track number one’s comparatively upbeat vibe.
Rounding out the album is the shortest track “Light of Winter,” which is my favourite on the album. It establishes very quickly that it’s different from the album’s first two tracks with it’s prominent use of synths, with the guitar merely acting as support. This is one of those songs that really sounds like what the name implies. While listening to it, even in the middle of September, I can picture the sun reflecting off the crystallized icy and snow. The vibe I get from this track is one of almost childlike curiosity, tinged with nostalgia. It’s a mesmerizing listen, and is the track I find myself returning to most when I don’t have time to listen to the whole album.
When put on the scale, it’s easy to see that Journey is a winner, though I do wish that there had been a bit more variety in the material. While Spell of Dark does a good job cycling through different moods, it would be nice to have some more variation in the material, and even something like a mid-album acoustic track would have helped to break things up. Once everything is taken into account though, these complaints are relatively minor, as the material on offer is all quality. I’m looking forward to the colder months so I can listen to Journey while gazing out at a fresh field of white snow. Spell of Dark has offered up a solid, pretty and very atmospheric album here, and it’s one I can imagine myself returning to quite often. I’m very much looking forward to hearing what comes next for this young band.