This can be one of the easiest reviews I have ever written. All I have to say is, check out my review of the 2002 album Reflections of the I (link below), multiply the complexity and eclectic nature of the music several fold, and, voila, the review for The Imaginary Direction of Time writes itself. However, if I do that, you would dismiss me as a serious reviewer, and I can only imagine the amount of hate-mail I will get for limiting the review to this one paragraph.
So, instead, I am faced with one of the most difficult reviews, because, after all, how does one describe Beauty. I had attempted it once before reviewing Reflections of the I, and now I have to do it again. Although, it seems that I am not alone trying to define the subject, as the band itself tries to answer the question judging from the opening song’s title What Is Beauty.
Winds have remained true to their vision. Just like Reflection of the I the current album is a perfect fusion of classically inspired piano playing, progressive rhythms, philharmonic strings and guitar mastery that is awe-inspiring. Throw in on top some deep philosophical lyrics sung in clean, but very original, vocal style and the picture is complete. And, really, the picture could not be less diverse considering the backgrounds and aspirations of the four musicians making up this “superband”. Classically trained Andy Winter on keys and piano lays the foundation for Winds songs, but all other members, vocalist/bassist Lars Eric Si (Khold), guitarist virtuoso Carl August Tidemann (aka Tritonus, formerly with Arcturus) and superdrummer Jan Axel von Blomberg (aka Hellhammer, Arcturus, The Kovenant, Mayhem and what seems like thousand of other projects) contribute as well.
The band also employs the string quartet, and the strings are not to be considered a gimmick or background music for Winds. They are the fifth band member, playing rhythm or soloing throughout the album. To die for cello intro on Theory of Relativity brings out a romantic, almost poetic feeling to the beginning of the song. Such heavy string usage makes the music even more diverse and complex, calling for the listener’s full attention and multiple listens, each one uncovering more and more layers in the songs.
Describing the songs on The Imaginary Direction of Time individually is a futile attempt. None of them have anything close to the “regular” structure, there are really no verses or choruses. Instead, music progresses in unpredictable ways from string intros and piano passages to edgier progressive riffs and long guitar solo runs. Very often instruments unite in these temporary ensembles like piano/guitar/strings on What Is Beauty or piano/strings/vocals/percussion on Visions of Perfections or piano/percussion/vocals on Time Without End. These unions are temporary and fleeting, but when they happen everything is done with such unison and perfection you can’t help but marvel. The listener, however, is never turned off, these musicians occupy your attention constantly, and their music is not being self-indulgent. The unbelievable production also makes everything to be heard in perfect harmony.
I have said it before that using piano instead of synthesizers makes the Winds music true and organic. Andy Winter is never in your face or over the top with his piano playing. His sound is always reserved and classy, almost strip naked in Visions of Perfection or Moonlight Sonata like in A Moment for Reflection. It is if he is the only musician on stage at times, but when other instruments kick in he is cognizant of letting everyone else be heard as well. A perfect example is him “picking a duel” with guitars on Under the Stars after serene intro and waltz like rhythms.
Carl August Tidemann has almost outdone himself on guitars, and I didn’t think it was possible after Reflections of the I. Guitar fireworks and pirouettes on The Imaginary Direction of Time are one of a kind and need to be heard by everyone who thinks some power metal or neo-classical guitarist can “shred”. His run on What Is Beauty, multitrack apotheosis on Under the Stars, macabre tone on A Moment of Reflection and mid-Eastern distortion on Beyond Fate are just some of the impressive examples.
Jan Axel von Blomberg (Hellhammer) does not go million miles per hour and he does not blast non-stop, but he is just so intricate with his cymbals and touches while rhythmically unshakeable. How about that militaristic march coupled with the strings on The Final End?!
Lars Eric Si’s vocals will not be everyone’s favorite, but he somehow crawls inside your soul and stays there causing joy, doubts and sadness at the same time. There is no “range” or high notes to be reached, mostly soft spoken and tranquil singing of the extremely philosophical lyrics which I am not even going to try and interpret for you.
Winds music is my private symphony. While bands like Therion and Penumbra are bombastic, they need a large choir, big orchestra to feel symphonic, Winds is small-scale, played in a chamber just for you, very philharmonic in nature. It does not strive to be big and pompous, preferring instead to be very personal and modest, but not less complex. Don’t get me wrong, I love both genres; it is just sometimes you want to be alone, with Winds. (What a moniker too!)
If there was one criticism of this album, it is like a rich dessert, you can’t have too much of it in one setting. Multiple listens are definitely required to fully comprehend the grandeur. For example, I played songs 1-6 for a few days, and then songs 6-11 the next few (the last track Infinity is 2 min of silence and a 5 sec piano bleep, so technically there is only 11).
This is my bottom line. I know some people responded to my previous Winds review. For those foaming at the mouth how great the band is – guys, you will be fully rewarded by your wait. This album is just as good. For those who listened to some tracks before and didn’t like it, stay away from this eclectic masterpiece as it is probably over many heads.
Killing Songs :
Only because I have to pick What Is Beauty, Visions of Perfection, A Moment for Reflection, The Final End
|Alex quoted 91 / 100|
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