Frostwinter — the debut full-length album from the Siberian black metal project Nordgeist, which is available now via Kunsthall Produktionen — sounds like forging ahead through the thick sheets of a torrential snowstorm after having been buried alive. Frostwinter‘s Bandcamp page describes Nordgeist as having incorporated “a stormy dose of harsh rage” into some of the welcomingly familiar palette of icy black metal, and that definitely shines through here.
The music seems relatively sharp and definitively devastating to the point that — at least later on, once even more fully immersed in the album’s world — the journey becomes existentially disorienting, although the underlying passion remains utterly mesmerizing. The dramatic dynamics reach a point on the album’s third track, “Возмездие (Revenge),” that the ground seems to suddenly collapse with every resounding hit from the rapidly moving drums, and instead of any substantial respite, the metaphorical air above is filled with a constricting haze of icy guitars.
The album feels compellingly secure in its state of utter frenzy, as across the journey, much of the music proves relatively unbroken. The consistency makes the pulverizing musical torrents only increasingly formidable. Songs on Frostwinter — all of which feature at least 12 minutes of music — stretch on without reaching any long periods of slower instrumentation, although the blistering metallic haze consistently features thoroughly captivating dynamic shifts. Nordgeist largely sticks to chilling fury across this absolutely leveling album, and there’s not much uncertainty about the direction it’s going.
On album opener “Зима (Winter),” the song’s intensity level suddenly shifts a bit around the midpoint before rearing back up like a steadily growing wind current, and the journey only gets more dramatically moving from there. By the latter part of the follow-up track “Старый волк (Old Wolf),” the scorching tremolo riffing has taken on somewhat of a gritty yet triumphant feel, like reaching a point of some kind of revved up emotional power while still trapped within a snowy haze. Moments like this particularly dramatic riffing feel like breaking points leading into a frenetic reverie.
Notably, a lot of the album isn’t particularly regal — melodic black metal vibes don’t really make an appearance, and there’s no operatically inclined drama. Instead, the music feels more in-your-face (like an actual snowstorm, really) — the tones pack craterous impact and prove relatively confrontational.
Ultimately, the album seems to blend the power inherent in the winter storms referenced in the project’s imagery with a strong and fiery passion, and the presentation is invigorating. Although it’s crushing, the music remains persistent, and the space in which the album contrasts an ominous expanse with an utterly relentless drive forward is exhilarating.
It’s like the sound of struggling to keep your footing on a snowy cliff. The experience is thoroughly unsettling to the point of sparking some existential contemplation about the limits of our being, yet on from there, the snowy expanse seems compellingly grandiose, and the music’s inward fire that keeps that contemplation going feels like an enlivening shock. The musical blizzard is electrifying.