SCREAMS OF WINTER
Divine Chaos – EP – Digital Download
Independent – Released – Sept 1, 2017
Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt
Michael Scola/ Vocals
Maxwell Damske / Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Drum programming
Alex Damske / Lead Guitars
A Brief History:
Screams of Winter is a melodic death metal act hailing from Chicago, Illinois. Forming in 2004 as a middle school act, they disbanded in 2010 when they “failed to evolve musically”. (Reference their Facebook about page). Fast forward 7 years, Screams of Winter have reformed and re-recorded 5 tracks that “finally sound like what the band always wanted them to sound like”. I haven’t heard their 2006 release, which they describe as “far from listenable” but I have to say the 5 tracks schlepped up on Divine Chaos are what I want them to sound like as well.
First the cover, which I’m guessing is a depiction of Saint Peter. The gates behind the angel-like figure suggest he’s standing atop the stairway to heaven waiting to pass judgement on whoever seeks entry. He is the Devine. However, there’s also an element of space here. The planet, stars, and comets are the Chaos. Well thought out.
The album opens with ‘Mechanical Chaos’. The first minute and a half is mostly keyboard ambiance with some light percussion and the odd strum of the guitar. This is the kind of thing a band might have the Sound Man play at the start of a show to set the mood as the band enters. Sound Man or keyboardist, that is, if they had one which it appears they don’t though I believe I hear some here and there throughout the album. Guitars lead us into the tune and finally the vocals join the fray. The first thought I have is Screams of Winter sound like a cross between Children of Bodom and Arch Enemy. Michael Scola’s vocals remind me of Angela Gossow and whoever is taking the lead on the guitar shreds like Alexi, early Bodom. Upon reading their bio, I see they list In Flames as an influence and now I can hear it big time. To be clear, I’m talking early In Flames, not current In Flames. There is one low point to the song that I feel compelled to mention and that’s the clean vocals. They’re not bad; I just don’t think they fit the track. In this particular case, they remind me of Ray Alder of Fates Warning, specifically from A Pleasant Shade of Grey. While Alder is one of my favorites, unfortunately in my opinion, using them on this track takes away a bit more than it gives. And don’t get me wrong, ‘Mechanical Chaos’ is solid regardless.
‘Divine Tragedy’, track 2, opens with a super melodic riff and again I can hear that early In Flames. I love the harsh backing vocals here as they allow for a pace that couldn’t be done with a single screamer. Again though, they cut to the clean vocals which I’m not fond of. In this track, they do better suit the layout, as they come while ‘Divine Tragedy’ slows. I believe they’re inspired by God Forbid who uses clean vocals more frequently and who are also, coincidentally, listed as an influence on Screams of Winter’s “About” page. Despite my reservations, this might be my favorite on this EP.
‘Orwellian Overture’ begins with Rush-like keys which come and go throughout the track. Again with the clean vocals; but they’re growing on me. I love how they transition in and out of the melodic riffs on this track.
‘Rise of the Nephilim’ is the perfect tune for a live show. It’s got all the elements I’m looking for. It begins with a pace that’s sure to open a pit. It slows a bit after 30 seconds or so, allowing the guys who get gassed easily the opportunity to stand aside and breathe while the few psychos remaining can keep at it as the reduced pace still justifies some slamming. The backing vocals again suit the track (fry, not clean). ‘Rise of the Nephilim’ continue the tradition of sweet transitions as the guitars sustain, the drums take over for a few seconds before the soloing begins which gives way to a chant “Rise! – Rise! – Rise!”. Of course, in the live setting this is the time for crowd interaction and I have no doubt there’ll be any problems getting the fiends in the audience to chant along. Sure, the nuts in the pit will likely be gasping for breath, single fist raised to open the airways as they labor out a hoarse whisper. Those who stand back banging their heads and fists will be sure to compensate. Once the chant ends the drums take off, a little back feed and back to the shredding… and moshing. Rise of the Nephilim maintains the pace until it closes.
Holy Lust closes out Divine Chaos with a nice slow melody that takes off unexpectedly. Again, smooth transitions bridge the gaps as the songs changes speed, from death to melodic and back again. I mention them every track as I feel transitions are key in separating the average Melodic Death Metal acts from the exceptional.
With so much going on in each track, it’s hard to notice that the earworms on Divine Chaos average almost 5 minutes each. Despite being just a 5 track EP, Divine Chaos clocks in at 29 minutes. Aside from being an amazing blend of Bodom, Arch Enemy and In Flames this album has one more feature extremely attractive feature and that’s the price. Digital download of Scream of Winter’s album (at the time of this writing) is listed on Bandcamp for $4USD. Are you kidding me? $4? I could create an endless list of trivial items people piss away more money on, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m not going to. All I’m going to say is there’s links below to 4 different ways you can buy it and Bandcamp is the cheapest.