West Midlands, UK based female fronted, Dark Metallic, Gothic and Symphonic Metal band Winter Storm have returned with their sophomore album 'Within The Frozen Design' and very much like their debut, 'Serenity In Darkness' (2010), it is a good but very frustrating mixed bag.
Starting with the good: Vocalist and lead guitarist Hannah has a very rich and enticing mid range voice which sets her apart from the many operatic/symphonic female singers that are currently clogging up the genre. Her delivery also matches the cold and icy feel that the music conjures. Winter Storm are certainly named correctly! Keyboardist (and professional wrestler) Doomsday provides some excellent work that really enhances the Gothic side of the band. Opening track proper, 'Wasted Feelings', is a great way to start proceedings, reminding me of a female fronted Queensryche. Two tracks stand head and shoulders above everything else: 'Shadow Weaver' and especially 'Universal Design' are both huge slabs of Gothic/Symphonic excellence that really should have you banging your head majestically. And, for an independent, self released album, the booklet and artwork is of a high standard and adds to the interesting story/concept that I'll leave you to find out about.
And now the frustrating and not so good: Hannah's vocals are buried in the mix. She is the element that makes Winter Storm sound a bit different from everybody else. Don't hide that, embrace it! I'll also say that her lead guitar work is a bit one dimensional. I note that Winter Storm don't have a rhythm section at present (bassist Jamie Downes announced as I was writing this that he was leaving the band). Worst offender production wise, though, are the horribly sampled and LOUD drums. If anyone thinks any of these 'sounds' are being played by a real person then they need to get out more - the cymbal samples sound horrendous, are way overused and actually cut one another out! It's horrible, horrible and very horrible. If you're going to use drum samples then use them properly. My cheap Yamaha practice kit for home sounds better than this! There also appear to be a couple of very annoying volume drop off points during playback. I've cleaned the disc and checked my gear but it keeps happening on this album.
I think Winter Storm do have the credentials to make a cracking album but they need to sort these issues out. I know I sound harsh but I think my bug bear of 2014 is going to be bands that either use samples for drums or muck around with a drummer’s sound so much that it just sounds computerised. I know the boundaries of heavy metal and rock have moved a lot in recent years but bands such as Winter Storm need to keep it real. They've credited William Stokes as their live drummer on the booklet (he has since left the band) so why couldn't he have played on the album. It beats me! Anyway, if you like Gothic and Symphonic Metal then 'Within The Frozen Design’ is worth checking out. Just try to block out those 'drums'!
WITHIN THE FROZEN DESIGN
Review by Rick Tilley
18th Nov 2013
1) Cold Creationl; 2) Wasted Feelings
3) Shadow Weaver; 4) Symmetric Flow
5) Afraid to Speak
6) Beneath the Mystery
7) Broken World
8) Universal Design
10) Dark Awakening
11) Waves of Misery
12) The Frozen Siren
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Hannah's vocals are buried in the mix. She is the element that makes Winter Storm sound a bit different from everybody else. Don't hide that, embrace it!"