Home > Music > Sorcier Des Glaces – Snowland (1998)

Sorcier Des Glaces – Snowland (1998)

Sure, it seems like an abrupt departure from the 2011 coverage. But in a few days, the band is going to release Snowland Reprise MMXI, a remake of this that apparently showcases a new, much beefier production. That means it counts… right?

Silliness aside, this Quebecois band is somewhat obscure, but have been receiving greater attention lately due to their increased productivity as of late – their 3rd studio album came out in August 2011, and their next (Ritual of the End) is scheduled for July 2012. This one is supposedly a tribute to many of the Norwegian black metal bands of the early ’90s, with its lo-fi production, melodic riffing, greyscale cover art, and so forth. The production is worth talking about – the vocals are fairly low in the mix, and the drums are hard to hear, especially when they blastbeat and the cymbals are the only thing I can hear. The guitars have a limited degree of treble, giving them an even more atmospheric and windblown sound than your average BM band. The overall effect is that this sounds much more laid back and contemplative than your average extreme metal album. Keyboards are used sparsely, with plenty of wind sounds, and ambient sounding patches. They too are lo-fi (and tuned slightly sharp), but that’s more than acceptable considering the style  of the album. These keyboards get 2 instrumentals to show off – the lead in track that sets the mood for the album, and the more martial “Darkness Covers the Snowland”.

Adding to this contemplative feeling is the nature of the riffing. It’s melodic as usual, but Snowland showcases a lot of unusual melodies, with infrequently seen chord progressions and voicings. The middle of “Onward Into The Crystal Snows”, for instance, showcases many minor/diminished 7ths in a descending pattern starting around 1:38. In general, these techniques give Snowland a refined sense of melody, that, while not particularly increasing the heaviness (like it does for Necrophobic and Sacramentum), adds a rarely seen level of compositional intricacy (like At The Gates’ debut). Possibly as a result, the riffs aren’t related to the degree that a more direct band would use, giving the whole album a sort of wandering feel. Overall, combined with the winter/fantasy lyrics, listening to the album is like taking a contemplative journey into a foreign land, full of interesting sights and events. “Pure Northern Landscape Desolation” is probably the ‘heaviest’ track on here, with its lengthy buildup from 0:00 to 2:46 enhancing the rest of the song.

Overall, this Norwegian-style outing both benefits and suffers from its adaptation of the aesthetic. Obviously, it excels in creating atmosphere, and the guitar techniques used in that specific sort of black metal lend themselves well to the unique riffing this band showcases. On the other hand, the muted production makes it much more difficult to establish dynamics and almost completely marginalizes the drumming. Overall, the melodies carry this, but I will certainly want to listen to the remake, as well as the band’s later albums to see how they evolved.

Highlights: “Onward Into the Crystal Snows”, “Pure Northern Landscape Desolation”, “Night Throne”

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