Windhelm is the solo project of Aldric, who is also active in Grimdusk and Kaldt Helvete. And under this moniker Aldric has already built up a respectable discography since its foundation in 2016. This year he already presents the fourth album, for which Drakkar Productions has signed on to release it.
As explained before in some of my previous reviews, French Black Metal is anything but standard, it can be extremely aggressive like Antaeus or just the exact opposite, like you can hear from a band like The Great Old Ones for example. The country brings Black Metal with many faces and is not recognizable by a certain characteristic sound; in contrast to Greek or Finnish Black Metal, for example, that usually produce a very distinctive sound. However, there is one thing that binds French Black Metal acts, and that its origin. While not necessarily the very first French Black Metal bands, the bands that were organized as Les Légions Noires played a key role in the development of the genre in France. Bands like Belkètre and Torgeist, but especially Vlad Tepes and Müttiilation were the main protagonists. They brought a rough and ugly form of brusque Black Metal from which all beauty has been banished. It is in this tradition that Aldric finds his musical salvation. The almost hour-long ‘Au Crépuscule de l’existence’ (which translates to ‘In the Twilight of Existence’) offers a tribute to those bygone times when Mütiilation was pretty much the ultimate cult act in the Black Metal scene. Those late 90’s and early 00’s, when everyone scoured all distros looking for Mütiilation’s demo tapes and first LP’s. A time that can be looked back on with some nostalgic feelings, but which also kept alive by a band like Windhelm. We hear the same gritty guitar tone, the cold and somewhat mechanical production and the raspy vocals that together form a fairly monotonous whole in which melody is certainly not the main ingredient. The sparse addition of some keyboard melodies is most of the time found at the edges of the songs or tucked deeply away in the background and thus having more the role of mood enhancer.
With ‘Au Crépuscule de l’existence’, Aldric succeeds well in creating a nostalgic and authentic sound and atmosphere. It might not be such a big deal that we don’t hear the Les Légions Noires sound very often anymore; that keeps it somewhat unique. But it is because of bands like Windhelm that the legacy of that unique French sound is not entirely and completely lost.