Review in Chronicles of Chaos
"Ils m'entourent, les gémissements de la Mort." Five years have passed since _The Umbersun_, yet its final words still echo in my mind. Now Elend have at last returned with its successor, _Winds Devouring Men_, and both enthusiasts and detractors alike of their "Office des Ténèbres" trilogy should heed this warning: 21st century Elend is significantly different from last century's. I am one of the enthusiasts of the band's earlier work, having been especially impressed by the chilling _Les Ténèbres du Dehors_ and the infernal _The Umbersun_. Both were remarkable concepts, and while in hindsight the former suffered from some shortcomings in its execution (though for those who enjoyed it at the time it made little difference given the impact of the album), the latter was much tighter.
But forget the first two albums, _Leçons de Ténèbres_ and _Les Ténèbres du Dehors_, for _Winds Devouring Men_ has little in common with them (apart from the fine packaging quality it shares with the latter). It is instead as much a follow-up to _The Umbersun_ as it is closer to Dead Can Dance. The atmosphere is still very dark, albeit not quite so hellish, while the introspective, tragic setting also remains; but the music is often more tranquil and melodic, and also structured into shorter pieces. There are plenty more changes to take in, though: most of the vocals are male, either clean sung or spoken; a string ensemble is used instead of synths; the booming percussion Elend toyed with at one point on _The Umbersun_ is exploited a bit further; and the band has also dived into the creative manipulation of noise and nearly industrial atmosphere in some points to complement the music. While the overall result sometimes reminds one of a very dark Dead Can Dance, Elend still occasionally deliver their descent-into-hell sequences (minus the old screaming), which they achieve using slightly different elements than usual. It still remains very impressive, though the Dead Can Dance influences would have benefitted from a few more of those passages being included. The emphasis has shifted a bit more towards tranquil melodies and melancholic atmospheres, whilst experimenting with the aforementioned elements in order to keep the band's sound moving forward -- quite likely a wise choice, considering things couldn't get much more hellish than _The Umbersun_ without alienating anyone who's not into noise to a considerable extent.
It is perhaps unavoidable to feel somewhat disappointed by the decrease in female vocals, but the sheer excellence of several passages (violin on "Charis", piano on "Under War-Broken Trees" and atmosphere on "Winds Devouring Men" are just a few examples), the subtle intricacies sprinkled throughout the album, and the authentic, full-bodied and highly atmospheric sound Elend have achieved guarantee a very satisfying experience. After all these years Elend remain a very talented and unique band, while _Winds Devouring Men_ is consistently well rounded, distinctive and simultaneously soothing and brooding. It wasn't an easy task to create a sufficiently different yet worthy successor to _The Umbersun_, but Elend has succeeded in doing so.
reviewed by Pedro Azevedo (9 out of 10)