White Summer•Black Winter
posted on 3/2011 By:
Most of the time spent daydreaming, drifting and listening to heavy metal in my room as a youth found me in the illusionary role of a dynamic frontman, like Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson and the like. That's not to say I would've sneezed at an opportunity to become the next Randy Rhoads, naturally, but it illustrates the point that I've always revered the great wailers of our genre and have thusly carried an odd sort of aversion to instrumental heavy metal because of it. But, eventually life's daydreams get muscled out by its grim realities, so I no longer pose in front of a mirror with one foot propped up on a comic book chest while pointing out in mid-scream to a buxom woman who's just pulled her shirt over her head. Today's version of me is happy with the role of promoting and writing about heavy metal, as opposed to figuring out a way to warble for some incredibly lucky band. But truthfully, even after all these years, I still have a hard time shaking those vocal cravings whenever I stumble across a new instru-metal band. UNLESS the album in question is similar to what's delivered on White Summer - Black Winter.
I've listened to this record an immeasurable amount of times over the course of the last few weeks, and to state the case simply, I've hardly noticed the lack of vocals because Demian Fenton and Don Argott's dual guitar work fucking sings, brother. These leads sing like a soaring vocal hook throughout every shift in tempo and mood, switching up technique to perfectly suit whatever style happens to fall on the map. Buckets of Iommi, bursts of Uli Jon Roth and splashes of Tony Bourge leap from the frets and flash across the room on every turn, making this the kind of record perfectly suited for those ensorcelled by heavy axe-play. You won't get through 30-seconds here without conjuring an image of some classic ripper bolting through a lead 'neath a spotlight with head tilted back and cosmic exhaust pluming from their mouth.
But it's obviously more than just scorching leads that sells White Summer - Black Winter. I first picked up on these dudes with 2009's The Battle with Old Crow, something I'd certainly consider to be a very enjoyable stoner slab, but it didn't hook me off the bat nearly as hard as this record. The production this time around is cleaner, but maintains (and in many cases amplifies) the fuzzy, warm atmosphere essential to pushing the band's velvety stoned sound, and it really gives all players ample opportunity to break out into the foreground whenever the inclination strikes. (Hell, even drummer Sean-Paul Fenton gets a solo amidst "Four Winds".)
The most obvious comparisons will fall to early 70's Sabbath, which is right on the mark, especially when the gait is slower and the riffs are emphasized directly alongside Colin Smith's Geezer-bubbling bass. But one can easily pick out scores of other ancient influences that make it obvious these dudes have spent ample hours devouring not only the staples of the stoner genre such as Kyuss, but also piles of elder hard rock and blues-based woogie harkening troupes such as Atomic Rooster, Lucifer's Friend, Wishbone Ash, wicked-old Scorps, and everything in-between. It's essentially 45-minutes of smoking tunes that'll leave your eyes half-closed and beet-red by the time the last note finally drifts from your speakers.
So, would I be happy if Serpent Throne eventually picked up a wailer such as Danava's Gregory Meleney to push the band into more of a Rush-like territory in the future? Hell yes, I would. But based purely on the sheer enjoyability of White Summer - Black Winter, I'd also say I'd be perfectly content if the band maintained their current path of sculpting some of the finest instrumental burnout metal currently drifting from the pipes of our genre today. Highly recommended.
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