By: Pete McTaggart
Star Of Heaven | facebook | bandcamp |
Star of Heaven’s self released début release, Vinter, is an engaging & uplifting experience, though one that at times meanders & fails to provide much punch.
The Swedish five piece have tied together a wide variety of influences to create an engaging collection of songs, taking from as diverse sources as post-rock groups Laura & Russian Circles to early Silver Mount Zion, even bringing to mind recollections from some of the more ambient tracks from Warren Ellis & Nick Drake’s soundtrack to The Assassination of Jesse James.
While Silver Mount Zion in their earlier incarnations found beauty in the sparse moments between melody, Star of Heaven’s piano led tracks (the unimaginatively titled Track 1, Track 2 and Track 5) endeavour to fill these gaps with shimmering light, allowing the a sense of beauty and sobriety to emerge. Often Silver Mount Zion’s emptier moments alluded to foreboding doom, there is none of this dread on Vinter. Every note steers the listener towards a familiar, familial place. In creating this warm ambience though, the Stockholm group fail in creating a dynamic & memorable experience; there is no insistence to listen to the album immediately upon completion. When the notion occurs to listen to Vinter, it’s a hopeful & rewarding journey but there lacks an impetus to re-listen. That the album contains, for the most part, a very strong & consistent theme throughout is something to be praised, but in taking minimal risks, Vinter may go months without being played.
In contrast to the sombre tapestry of the album, one moment sticks out, a dark turn halfway through Track 6. For a brief pause, Star of Heaven evoke the spirit of Godspeed You! Black Emperor through the use of a deranged sounding guitar passage, a glimpse of a freight train breaking through a warm landscape, causing goosepimples to rise on one’s arm. These brief moments stand in opposition to the comfortable texture of the album and provide the most engaging vignette.
The music itself is an artfully layered, piano/acoustic guitar led late night stargazing soundtrack. On Track 3, the double layered guitars, packed with reverb, similar to some of Russian Circles’ more tranquil moments. The closing moments of Track 7 also bring to mind Red Sparowes, for a brief interlude, before once more echoing Godspeed’s twisted ambience, through an insistent drum beat & distressed guitar interplay ensuring the record an atmospheric climax.
Star of Heaven have created a warm & open canvas of ambient instrumental work, on which there are moments of twisted beauty. These brief glimpses of the ugly are too few and far between to place this album on an ‘essential’ list. What’s there IS very good but doesn’t leave enough of an imprint to remain in mind for a long period of time. When prompted to engage with it though, Vinter is a deeply rewarding listen.