I first discovered Winter Dust through the first A Thousand Arms compilation, Open Language. I was instantly hooked. The song was called “There”, from the Thresholds EP – one of the best EPs I can name from any genre of music. It was emotive, passionate, raw, compelling. It just sucked me in completely.
Their next release, Sense By Erosion, was just as incredible, channeling more of that intense emotion into truly incredible music. In my review I wrote: “By taking the beauty of post-rock, the intensity of hardcore and the emotional aspects of emo, Winter Dust have fused their own sound that ticks all the right boxes for me.“
That was in 2018. The “before times”, if you will. Things have changed a lot since then.
Winter Dust faced some tragedies. In December 2019 they were involved in a car crash, totaling their van and destroying a lot of their instruments and musical equipment. And then in 2020 the world came to a standstill, with Italy hit especially hard.
I was planning to return to Europe in 2020 with my American brothers in Ranges, and we were to tour and play at dunk!Festival. I was really excited for that trip, and was planning to visit Italy for the first time to meet the members of Winter Dust, and possibly even see them play live. I’m online friends with a some of the members of the band. I remember them painting a scene that I interpreted with absolute terror, discussing how the pandemic was ripping through Italy at a pace that the medical professionals couldn’t defend against. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think I recall someone discussing mass graves. I do recall the sense of shock and disbelief. It was gut wrenching. The world was coming to an end.
In March 2020 Winter Dust made a post on their band page: “Here in Italy shows are banned, and so will be everywhere, soon.” And sure enough, their damning prophecy came true.
I felt so isolated, living on a small island nation, stranded in the Pacific. Just a few months earlier I was so full of hope – so excited – with plans to see the world and go traveling and meet up with foreign friends. And in a short space of time that was taken from me. It’s not fair to compare – and New Zealand had a lot better experience of the pandemic than most – but I found it extremely difficult to process. I grieved the loss of live music, and struggled with the feeling of complete helplessness over what was happening throughout the world.
A lot of what I just discussed hasn’t got much to do with the songs that Winter Dust write. But it provides context for what I’m reliving as I listen to this new album. The music is so emotionally potent already, and now brings up strong personally feelings and memories.
I’ve just scrolled back through the Winter Dust Facebook feed and found two posts from that time. I remember the feeling of dread and uncertainty, but looking back with hindsight on my side, I commend how they worded those posts. They were pragmatic, sending a message that yes, times are hard. But they also shared a message of hope: that we will get through this. Here is a post not long after their car crash, and here is a post about the looming pandemic. They were so strong in the face of all they were going through, and I’m so glad that they survived. And I’m grateful for this new album: Unisono.
Something to differentiate Unisono from Winter Dust’s previous works is that it features Italian singing. Which is awesome. Why wouldn’t a band from Italy sing in Italian? In a recent interview with DafenProject, Marco Vezzaro (vocals and guitar) explained that he could only express the things he needed to convey on this record accurately in his native tongue.
I don’t understand Italian and I feel that to put the lyrics through an online translator would somehow tarnish the music or cheapen the experience. But I don’t see this as a barrier. The music is still beautiful, the singing compelling. I don’t understand the words, but I can hear the emotion.
The magnificent guitar tone that opens “Castelli de Sabbia” is one of my favourite moments of the record. I don’t play guitar so won’t be able to do it justice with any description, but it’s so full sounding, especially when coupled with Vezzaro’s throaty vocals. It’s so central to what I love about Winter Dust’s sound, so familiar. Almost homely, in a weird way.
My two favourite tracks on Unisono involve guest appearances by fellow Italian duo Six Impossible Things. “Buio Presto” features such sweet singing courtesy of SIT singer Nicole Fodritto, with the music slowly elevating the mood, especially with snare-heavy drumming. And then BOOM, the guitar comes in and everything steps up a notch, with Vezzaro’s impassioned hardcore vocals bringing a touch of anger.
And lead single “Due Novembre” launches straight into it, with the band coming in full force, while Fodritto and Vezzaro harmonise. It a wonderful blending of textures. I love how they bring the song down to a simmer, Fodritto easing us out as the galloping drums cease and the other music trails off.
Some of these songs are shorter than I would have expected, and could use a bit more fleshing out, with more instrumental breaks for breathing room. I guess I’m used to the post-rock passages that take the time to unpack and explore musical ideas. These elements are still present, but Unisono leans more on the hardcore aspect of Winter Dust’s sound, being more direct, aggressive and concise.
There are many layers within the music, but I wouldn’t call it dense. It feels well balanced. Twinkling piano sits beside the distorted guitar. Overdriven intense passages are spaced out with reverberating breathing moments. There are six musicians in the band, plus the guest appearances from two members of Six Impossible Things. And together they pool their expertise to span the spectrum of music and the feelings that it can convey.
The last record, Sense by Erosion, featured a single called “Duration of Gloom“. I know it’s not the correct lyric, but I always hear the opening line as “Setting fire to the sun!”. That doesn’t even make sense, but the vocal delivery is so visceral. I picture Vezzaro delivering his searing call to arms as he cries out to the universe, shouting out to any who will listen. This is often what comes to mind as I listen to Winter Dust’s music. The impassioned vocals of someone crying out to the void, with brilliant music that carries just as much power and emotion to match.
And this is what has always struck a chord with me about Winter Dust. And it remains true with this latest album as well. We hear pain and anguish and frustration. But we also hear tenderness and beauty within the melodies. Unisono, is cathartic, to say the least.
I’m passionate about music. I wouldn’t have gone to the efforts of creating this website if I wasn’t. I’m a busy guy, but take time to write about music that inspires me; that I believe more people should hear about. And of the many bands I’ve written about over the years, I think Winter Dust is one of the bands most worthy of more attention.
Listen to Unisono. It’s an absolute triumph. And listen to Winter Dust’s older material too. Buy their records and a t-shirt. They are truly one of the best bands out there and they deserve all the support they can get.
Winter Dust are Marco Belloni (keys, piano, programming), Giulia De Paoli (grand piano, keys), Fabio Gallato (guitar), Marco Macchini (drums), Marco Lezzerini (bass), Marco Vezzaro (vocals, guitar, looping).
They’re based between Padua (IT) and London (UK).
Winter Dust links:
Keep an eye on Voice of the Unheard Records for potential physical releases.