This review is from: Winter's Knight (Audio CD)
I've said it before, and I shall say it again-- except for a select few albums (Sufjan Stevens) and a scattering of fun one-off songs (The Bird and the Bee), I do not like Christmas music.
But one of those exceptions is Nox Arcana's "Winter's Knight," a sumptuously haunting, snowy little album dedicated to the season of icy forests, monks and half-ruined . It's actually sort of one-third Christmas music and two-thirds WINTER music, all of it gothically lovely and just a little bit dark around the edges.
It opens with gusts of wind and the sound of a bell tolling, followed by an angelic choir while someone intones dramatically, "Alone in a tranquil twilight/a distant church bell tolls/the wind forms a ghostly choir/to summon lost and wayward souls..." It's a pretty haunting beginning, and it sets the mood nicely.
There are bittersweet folky melodies ("Ebonshire," "Coventry Carol"), delicate snow-spun songs ("Crystal Forest," "Reflections of Long Ago," the music-boxy "Lullaby"), dramatical orchestral melodies that set a powerful mood ("First Snow," "Solitude" "Veni Veni Emmanuel"), and haunting dark gothic melodies that make you think of ruined castles, dark forests and ghostly figures ("Phantom Toccata," "Hallowed Ruins"). As the album goes on it grows heavier and darker, only to end on a fairly upbeat note with "Carol of the Bells."
Like Nox Arcana's other works, "Winter Knight" is more than just a collection of songs -- it's an experience, quietly sweeping you away into the time and place that their music evokes. You really feel like you're wandering through a wintry world, full of tolling bells, ruined medieval buildings, and ice-encrusted forests.
They spin up this atmosphere with orchestral, gothic arrangements -- dark and gloomy, urgent and powerful, and some are simply eerie. Lots of interwoven strings, bells, a solemn organ, delicate piano and some delicate chimes. And while there aren't any conventional vocals, there is are solemn Gregorian-style chants and angelic choirs.
Just a warning, though: most of the songs are not really Christmas songs as much as WINTER songs. The overarching theme is more winter with a dash of Christmas, but the Christmas theme is still powerful and prevalent -- especially since it has the most epic version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" EVER, and it ends on a positive note with a traditional carol.
"Winter's Knight" is winter/Christmas music for the times when you crave something haunting, atmospheric and a little dark. Definitely a great seasonal listen.