"Once Upon A Winter have really mastered the paralleling of heavy and soft soundscapes to the extent that both can uplift and heighten emotions, but can also recede and pacify at any given place and time".
There are many great "post- rock" albums out there that you could reference when describing a classic. Everyone will have their favourites, those pillars of strength that hold the genre aloft, to showcase the strength and beauty that this style of music can encapsulate. One such album for me must be Jakob’s Solace. It’s one of those albums that did everything right, a moment in time, when the gods of "post-rock" looked down on the studio and stayed till the final mix. Since that record there have been many more classics, but one album that might have slipped under the radar for some was Once Upon A Winter’s 2019 release, Pain And Other Pleasures. Like Solace, it was stacked with emotion, melody and reflection. It made you sit up and see the world in another light. Not many albums can do that.
So, with all that fanboy talk out of the way, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Once upon A Winter’s new album Void moments of Inertia and get lost In its magic, and that’s exactly what happened.
“Loneliness is the suffering of our time. Even if we’re surrounded by others, we can feel alone” are the first words spoken on the opening track Far End and that can catch you off guard a little as they are immediately followed by an unexpected, but beautifully played saxophone solo that’s instantly joined by a rush of "post-rock" splendour. This track really does open like a mini cyclone, whipping up from beneath your feet and swirling frantically between your legs, whistling up through your chest cavity and tunnelling in through your ears, filling your head with soaring and vibrant harmonics and sky-scraping guitars. It’s an instant hit of "post-rock" goodness that has your head spinning in awe. Once your senses have adapted to the deluge of glorious guitars and lead swells, more sax symphonies spiral and orbit around you. Some vocal samples get carried up in the gusts, before the track gallops to an epic finale with high tempo drums and thundering bass.
Anthos is a far calmer affair, thick with a heavy bass line that becomes quietly romanced with some gorgeous violins, that float and fly upwards before some heavy-hearted tremolo guitars and huge melodic riffs crash in and elevate the track to another place, as more lead guitars layer themselves over the rhythm section. It all falls dreamy and serene for a while before that sweet violin serenades once more leading the track into a crescendo-laced climax, splashing colour and joy right to the end.
Elegant Demise weighs in heavy with a "black gaze" onslaught right from the outset, that bombards the mind with its double kicks and its multi layered instruments, all harmonising as one. Sombre violins dismantle the wall of sound as its bow caresses and cuts the strings with pain and compassion. Those stringed moments are used to perfection on this track, breaking up the black gazed fury, and then closing the track in a solo show of melancholy. That haunting violin brings me right back to the time I heard My Dying Bride play Sear Me for the first time. Goosebumps.
//ether welcomes back those soothing and heart-warming saxophone melodies, only this time they are countered and contradicted by chunky riffs that respond in a "post metal" vortex of guitars and fleshy drums. The musical “dance off” ebbs and flows, each raising the bar, reaching their near celestial highs and their moody, tranquil lows. It a glorious contrast that merges when required and stands alone when needed.
When I first heard the title track Void Moments Of Inertia, I immediately heard the ghost of We Lost The Sea’s masterpiece, Bogatyri haunting the opening passage, and resurfacing again in other parts of the track. It’s a piece of music that thrives on shredded tremolo glory and an underlying bass guitar, that is an absolute joy to hear throughout the album. Moments of synthesised calm followed by gut wrenching climaxes make this track a worthy title track to the album. Once Upon A Winter have really mastered the paralleling of heavy and soft soundscapes to the extent that both can uplift and heighten emotions, but can also recede and pacify at any given place and time.
This moving and transcendent album closes with the enchanting, piano laced Orenda, all beautifully swathed in a blanket of warm, restful saxophone tones. Even as the guitars and drums rumble in, they never distract from the serenity and bliss that the piano and sax manage to choregraph between them. This is a moment of "post-rock" heaven that deserves an auditorium that spans for miles, such is the glory and emotion that it radiates. A fitting end to an album that is well and truly a Greek triumph.