Artist: Winds Of Tragedy
Album Title: As Life Drifts Away
Label: Belfry Records
Date of Release: 17 June 2022
Even in a day and age where it’s ever easier to have a quick listen to a release to see if you’ll like it, the artwork for a record still has a remarkable pull for me. There have been a number of great examples this year already, the likes of Spheric Universe Experience and The Midgard Project immediately springing to mind. On the other side of the scale, I nearly bypassed the new Tranzat album because the artwork didn’t appeal. And the same nearly happened here, too. ‘As Life Drifts Away’ is the debut album from Winds Of Tragedy, and the cover did not initially speak to me. Faced with hundreds of review offers, I skipped past this offering a number of times because the artwork looked a bit basic, and the logo was uninspiring. In short, the presentation didn’t resonate, so I disregarded it. Late one night though, I pressed play, and my opinions changed.
On closer inspection, the pink and purple painting that adorns ‘As Life Drifts Away’ (courtesy of Ameirican artist Sean Deloria Black Wolf) is better than I first gave it credit for. The logo still isn’t great, but now that I have taken a listen to the music, this all becomes something of a non-issue. Winds Of Tragedy is actually a largely solo affair, the creation of Chilean multi-instrumentalist Sergio Gonzalez Catalan who you may already know thanks to his work with Rise To The Sky. He is joined in his exploration of the black/doom metal realm by Portuguese drummer Emidio Alexandre Ramos, whilst the production was taken care of by Filippos Koliopanos (Aesthetic Soundscape Productions) based in Athens, Greece. Everything else that you can hear on this album is down to the skill and vision of Sergio Gonzalez Catalan.
‘As Life Drifts Away’ is not a perfect album. I happen to think that the production could have been even better than it is for a kick off. It’s organic and raw, which suits the music to a certain extent, but this melancholic and atmospheric black/doom could have sounded even better with a little more clarity, especially when the songs are at their fastest and most intense. Nevertheless, the sound does not wholly put me off at all. Having been a little disparaging of it, I will concede that the output is given a gritty, unpolished authenticity by the chosen production, so I can’t be completely dismissive of it.
Then, at around 38 minutes in length, you really want every single song to hit the mark squarely to ensure maximum enjoyment. But if I’m being hyper critical, that’s not the case here, with a couple of less engaging songs to be heard amongst the eight, including ‘A Place Of Sad Despair’.
Putting all of this to one side, I’m prepared to bet that if you spend a little while in the company of Winds Of Tragedy, you will fall for it, and may fall hard for that matter. And the reason for this is because for all the rough edges here, there is a brutal honesty that comes through in the music, as well as genuine emotion. This is then backed up by some aggressive black metal ferocity, doom metal muscle, and more than a touch of elegant melody for good measure. In fact, for me, it’s the despair laden beauty that elevates this album from being just ‘ordinary’ or ‘ok’.
Take ‘Stay’ as a prime example of the quality that is on offer within ‘As Time Drifts Away’. Ok, so the synth intro that is joined by the howling of wolves is a little on the cliched side, but once the first monstrous guitar notes emerge, all else is forgotten. The drumming is slower, and more sympathetic to the heavily doom-led nature of the song, at least at the outset. As the song develops, the mournful melodies only increase, enhanced by a greater use of synths and orchestration. The speed increases also, with faster beats acting as the counterpoint to the elegant melodies created by the sounds of strings and then the guitar. I love Sergio’s deep, guttural growl too as it is so impactful and fully committed.
With the howling of cold, unforgiving winds in the background, ‘Winds Of Ruin’ opens with some utterly gorgeous clean and acoustic guitar playing, a delicate, almost whimsical melody created in the process. Even when the full force of the black/doom metal onslaught bursts into life, the melody remains at the heart of the song, the thread that holds everything together so well. Therefore, as frenetic as things become with blastbeats and cold staccato riffing dominating, the elegance remains intact.
I challenge anyone to not get a slight tingle of satisfaction at the outset of the closing composition ‘Failed This Life’; that guitar tone and the notes that are played are delicious and wonderfully heavy as well, raising a bittersweet smile on my face.
The other positive about the songs on this album is that none of them outstay their welcome. Doom-infused music often has a desire to wallow in songs that last for what feels like aeons. Here, the average song length is somewhere around four-and-a-half minutes. The advantage of this is that, by and large, the music makes a strong impact, does its thing, and then lets another track take over. Yes, it means that the album is shorter overall, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. It just means that I want to listen to the intensity, heaviness, and fragile beauty of songs like opener ‘Our Time Is Gone’ or the slightly longer ‘Everything Is Dying’ with its achingly sorrowful quiet introduction and ensuing lilting cadence of misery much more frequently than I otherwise might.
Rough edges it may have, but it is genuinely difficult not to be moved and entertained by the music on this debut for Winds Of Tragedy and Sergio Gonzalez Catalan. The blend of extreme metal in the form of black and doom metal, coupled with some achingly beautiful and resonant melodies creates a very pleasing final product. It may have more than a faint whiff of the 90s about it, but I call it nostalgia and, when it is executed as well as it is here, why bemoan a listening experience that is inspired by yesteryear? The positives far outweight the minor niggles I have, so Winds Of Tragedy and the debut album, ‘As Life Drifts Away’ comes with a heartily positive recommendation from me.
The Score of Much Metal: 86%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: