The band Winter have cast a long shadow over the doom-death/sludge genre ever since they released their only album Into Darkness in 1990. The New York act’s grindingly heavy mix of ‘Sabbath, Swans and Amebix struck an instant chord, and their nihilistic worldview perfectly suited the end of the Cold War-era. Goden, founded by Winter guitarist Stephen Flam, see their debut Beyond Darkness as a spiritual successor to Winter’s only record and a continuation of the journey they started 30 years ago.
Goden formed after a reunited Winter split for the second time in 2015 due to Flam’s severe hearing problems (for the full story check out our interview) and this album has been five years in the making. A 19-track concept piece, Beyond Darkness tells the story of a cosmic battle between light and darkness and conjures up a Lovecraftian universe where mankind has no control over its fate and ancient, eldritch powers lurk in the shadows.
Stephen Flam’s trademark guitar sound forms the core of the album, and his huge cascading riffs evoke both awe and dread. On ‘Cosmic Blood’ he displays his skill at combining discordant heaviness with notes of melancholy, while ‘Genesis Rise’ finds him tapping in a brutal, pummelling style which recalls Justin Broadrick’s work with Godflesh. Vocalist/lyricist Vas Kallas is Goden’s secret weapon. Her vocals can switch from guttural to ethereal in the space of one song, and her metaphysical approach to both her lyrics and her performance help bring the album’s concept to life. On ‘Kom Susser Todd’, for example, she switches not just between singing styles but also languages, performing chunks of the song in German as she feels the music demands it.
Kalla represents “Darkness” in the overarching concept, with keyboardist and vocalist Tony Pallini representing “Light”. Throughout the album he uses delicate, orchestral synths to enhance Flam’s guitar, never overdoing it or veering into cheesiness as many metal synth players can. He also plays the role of the “Voice of Goden” on the eight ‘Manifestations’ that weave throughout the album, delivering ominous spoken word passages, written as counterpoints to Kalla’s lyrics.
Beyond Darkness is everything Winter fans could have hoped for. Both a continuation and expansion of the classic Into Darkness, it has an intricate and complex vision which will draw listeners in deeper with each repeated spin. Like it’s iconic ’90s predecessor Beyond Darkness could easily become a genre classic.
Beyond Darkness is out 8th May on Svart Records. Order here.
Words: Dan Cadwallader