Review: Pagan Winter – In The Shadowlands (Demo)

Claiming existence since 1993 Pagan Winter released their first rehearsal-demo 3 months before this demo (1997). Included with this relatively number-heavy demo are the four tracks from the previous “Night of Chaos” along with another six. The total time of this recording is only around 24 minutes. What Pagan Winter achieves with these short tracks (averaging around 2 minute) is create the same bitterly cold atmosphere you could find with bands playing at triple the length. Perhaps not quite as epic but just as raw and seething. The band themselves state that there is no place for atmosphere within their sound, so perhaps those earlier sentiments should be retracted. Or exchange atmosphere for another verb. Whatever, the point is Pagan Winter play more than typical extreme metal, there is substance and an energy behind the compositions that allows it to feature an atmosphere. Cold, desolate and painful for sure, but this is atmospheric in itself.

Getting technically into the music could ruin the completeness that the sound captivates. When viewed from afar it holds more substance than up close, as is quite often the case with similar albums. The production is accomplished-basement quality, where all the individual instruments are encased and not allowed to venture off individually. This means there is no one real dominant sound, aside from the vocals which are hidden behind the music. The combination of all the instruments works very well and highlights the carefully written songs i.e., the combination is fluid-not confused. Another attribute, which also adds to the said atmosphere are the keyboards which are very gently and subtly introduced into the sound through most tracks.

The short interluding pieces (Intro, Intro II, Intro III) work well atmospherically (soft, brooding pauses) but would work better if incorporated into a song rather than existing independently. The solo minute of effect is unavoidably dulled when they are so disjointed from the rest of the demo.

Snare drum is the dominant sound overall, with the base drums possessing little power but keeping in line with the tone of the demo and providing a steady fast rhythm. The drums are most often the driving force of the album screaming forward head-long at you. The frantic velocity is captivating, the instrumental weaving underneath this is inspiring. Guitars play a set of different melodies within a song moving backward and forward they form the content. Vocals are distorted screams tearing through the fabric of each track.
Overall a great album, Pagan Winter cut through many of the sub-categories within black metal so would appeal to a great variety of listeners.

Originally posted on BlackMetalWeb
Review score: 4/5