Tampa Bay (Florida) hard rock band Winter Calling released its first record last March, As Darkness Falls, which is described as an effort to take listeners on a highly melodic and cinematic auditory journey. True to promise, most of their tracks start slow with a heavy hint of threat that spills over with a crescendo built layer by layer, one of which is always powerful guitars and a dynamic drum line. Chris Hodges (vocals), Ian Medhurst (guitar), Tim Gilbreath (bass), and Wayne Hoefle (drums, piano, and keys) also included a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” on the album that fits well amidst their original material.
As Darkness Falls opens with “A World I Can Feel”, the short piano introduction of which is joined by electronic guitars, with energy kicking into high gear thanks to some very energetic drums. One immediately gets a sense of the more operatic, symphonic feel the band is trying to achieve. “Self-Righteous Parade” again uses a dynamic drum line, also bringing in echoing that enhances some attention-grabbing guitar work. The vocals are a little too polished for such rawness and emotions, and it feels at times that the song’s layers have not been created to form a coherent whole but rather were pulled from different tracks. But overall, it works. The introduction to “The Stand” is more direct. It almost sounds like a hard rock album from the early 1990s. This is when listeners are convinced that the vocals can be raw enough to keep up with the rawness of the tracks yet melodic enough to fill the band’s symphonic side.
The delicate piano opening of “A Moment in the Sun” comes in sharp contrast to As Darkness Falls’ first three offerings. A little over a third of the song is vocals and piano only. Although the guitars and drums add wonderfully to the ballad, one is left a little disappointed over losing the simplicity it started with. In “Forever”, Winter Calling throws out its own formula of starting tracks slowly by throwing in their entire lot from the very first second. Electronic elements add a unique touch to “Leader of 1”, where the vocals take on an almost ballad like quality that makes it sound ominous what with its pulsating beat, making it an inspirational call to action.
The violin in “Find My Way” is a nice addition. Because of its almost pop-like ballad elements, it might be the most radio-friendly track on As Darkness Falls. “Wasted Years” starts again with a gentle piano introduction, the soft vocals underlying the melancholic and sadness well-fitting the title of the song. Only strings join in near the two-thirds mark, making this the calmest moment of the album and probably the most powerful. This is a great cover in a genre the band does very well in.
While “Make it Rain” also starts slow, it builds up with the same guitars and drums that defined the beginning of As Darkness Falls. Electronic elements return in the ominous and almost throbbing “Everyone Has a Story”. The band closes things up with the instrumental cinematic, symphonic “108” that puts on full display the talents of all the contributing musicians.
The band’s broad range can be filed under makes of this album one that many can find something they like. This is a name worth following as they hone their sound and commit themselves to whatever sound they decide is theirs. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about them is available on their Facebook page and their official website.