Winterage – The Harmonic Passage ALBUM REVIEW

I feel like I have to give at least some kudos to any band that uses actual symphonic instruments instead of midis. Or at the very least, uses extremely high quality midis so that I can’t even tell they’re midis. It’s even better when the actual instrumentation and use of these actual instruments is very well done. Symphonic metal is a genre full of so much absolute garbage, in that so many bands try to imitate the classical music sound, but contain absolutely none of the substance. I’ll give this band a 1 1/2 on a scale of 0-2 in accomplishing either of those things.

The album opens with a recognizable sound of instruments playing the standard concert favorite “tuning”. And I won’t lie, it sounds god awful. I know what tuning sounds like, and this was an extra special kind of bad. Tuning should never sound like a dying animal unless it’s at a middle school band concert. Fortunately the very next time they play it sounds infinitely better, I would even venture to say good. Really one of the major things to comment on this album is how well they execute the symphonic instruments. Sure, it sounds like glorified movie music, but that’s pretty much every single symphonic bands idea of classical, so I’ll somewhat excuse that. It’s the fact that it’s not shit that’s more important. The rest of the album is a mixture of symphonic metal and folk metal (duh) tracks, mostly leaning on the folk side. One track I did find particularly enjoyable was the ninth track “La Grotta Di Cristallo”, in which the main focus is maritime, coastal canadian (even though they were probably aiming for Irish) folk music. It’s really well done, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it authentic, it’s about as good as it gets for an imitation. The final track concludes the album with an approximately 9 minute track that heavily quotes Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky. It’s both a nice tribute, and a bit of a tacky cover (it really could’ve done without ending with a music box playing the melody as the song fades away). In all honesty, this is a good attempt to create symphonic metal that doesn’t make me want to hurt people when I hear it.

But I am not so easily appeased. Here’s a hint: if you’re going to make a 70 minute album, make each song count. Otherwise it’ll just all sound like filler and you’ll get a totally uninterested listener who loses track of where they are in the album and doesn’t even really care at that point. My mind tended to wander as I listened to this, and I never got fully engrossed in this album. A lot of the songs sounded like filler, even if they weren’t necessarily meant to be. Typically when all else fails, that’s when the vocalist comes to salvage the day, right? Wrong, very much wrong. While I definitely can appreciate the extremely high pitched soaring roars of the voice, that doesn’t particularly matter when your english sounds awkward. That’s why I typically like it when bands from other countries sing in their native tongue, because it sounds so much more natural, even if I can’t understand the lyrics.

The Harmonic Passage is a good attempt at symphonic metal that succeeds more than it fails, which is a lot more than I can say for other bands of that genre. At the very least, this was much more riff based music, which is always a plus in power metal. But ultimately it has many of the same faults that other bands of the type have, and coupled with the extremely long length with not enough substance, make this hard to view this work as anything other than just above-average.


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