Since the release of their debut demo in 2000, SATANIC WARMASTER has been considered one of the strongest forces in the black metal underground. The band is the brainchild of Polish musician, Werwolf (Lauri Penttilä), and has seemed to improve in musical quality from album to album, year after year. Yes, whether it be demos, compilations, splits, EPs, or LPs, there has been some form of a release with SATANIC WARMASTER music on it every year from 2000 to 2015. Fimbulwinter is the fifth full-length release from the band (worldwide release on April 7 via Werwolf Records/Hells Headbangers) and includes some new features not previously heard by the band, the most notable being the increased recording and production quality. This is his most melodic effort to date, but listeners should still expect the brand of filth-ridden black metal for which Werwolf is known.
The LP wastes no time getting into heavy material, as “Fimbulwinter’s Spell” charges forth without any intro other than a speeding riff accompanied by blast beat drums. This track sets the tone for the entire album as it is incredibly fast and aggressive at times, with breaks in tempo to add separation and groove. One of these includes acoustic guitar. I know that may seem like it would sound “off” during such a fast and heavy number, but it is executed tastefully, adding a malevolent depth and offers a fantastic mix of raw anger and melody, as a harmonized guitar riff is utilized at various points throughout. You’ll know it when you hear it. It is the riff I get stuck in my head the most out of the SATANIC WARMASTER discography. “Funeral Wolves” offers up a bludgeoning of speed, and is in a very close second place for most catchy riff on the record. You will first hear this part immediately after Werwolf’s initial scream soars over the music, ushering it in with force. Though the opener is melodic, “Funeral Wolves” seems to offer up even more melody, while keeping a grim foundation. “Korppi,” the Finnish word for “raven,” is a VORNAT cover featuring Thaukhnifur (guitars/vocals in VORNAT). It is a more mid-tempo number, given the usually fast nature of SATANIC WARMASTER. It has an apparent doom feeling throughout; as if it were preceding a violent storm.
This is no coincidence because “When Thunders Hail” starts with exactly that. It switches gears back to fast guitars and drums, while interjecting moments of reduced tempo. The underlying synth parts add a haunting touch to the five-minute beating the tune hands you. “Dragon’s Egg” is the most sinister and heavy sounding track on Fimbulwinter. It reminds me of earlier SATANIC WARMASTER material, a la Opferblut, while different in its own right. “Nuin-Gaer-Faun” evokes two different emotions: The first half of the song is somber, while the second seems to violently triumph that somber feeling with an added darkness. There is a feeling of victory “ON BATTLETRAILS OF A NEW DAWN, UNDER THE EMBLEM OF THE WOLF” as stated by Werwolf’s lyrics. “Winter’s Hunger” is ravenous in its relentless commanding guitar riffs and abusive drumming. The vocals provide a bleak lust for winter and death to surrounding life. The instrumentation accompanies that notion perfectly. Synth arrangements begin around the middle, carrying to the end, driving that bleak feeling deeper. The guitars later join the atmospheric sounds, adding heavier layers to the dreary outro. Fimbulwinter ends with the eerie instrumental “Silent Call of Moon’s Temples.” It features only synth, is a fitting companion to the ending half of its preceding track. The atmosphere in this song continues the darkness-filled void, ending the album in a gloom-ridden manner; a very tasteful end to an extremely heavy record.
While the production on this LP is extremely clear, the songs remain raw. The increased production value does not clean up SATANIC WARMASTER’S material. On previous releases, the quality was intentionally more lo-fi, adding a more raw tone. However, the guitar tones on this record remain frozen, grim, and decayed. The added quality does not discount that and the overall sounds of every instrument are more separated and clear, while still keeping orthodox tones. It is good to see Werwolf forging ahead and trying something drastically new with the production of this album; it has paid off. Sure, this risk may piss off some of the devout black metal crowd that expects lesser quality, but this is Werwolf making the record he wants and evolving as he sees fit. There are no compromises on Fimbulwinter, and to be frank, it is flawless. It has officially usurped Nachzehrer as my favorite SATANIC WARMASTER full-length, and I can’t wait to see where this evolutionary album leads their sound in the future.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM
-ERIC THE BULL