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Easy, kind, plain sodomy from behind - 86%

MacMoney, August 6th, 2011

While Babylon Whores as a band have always been a bit under the radar, their debut, Cold Heaven, is even more unknown than their later works. It is fairly surprising considering bands playing music with superficial similarities to Babylon Whores's style were quite prominent at the time. Or at least it was the time when Sentenced hired Ville Laihiala on the vocals and started to tone down their music. Though it doesn't do justice to Cold Heaven - or Babylon Whores in general - to compare them to drivel like Down or Frozen. On their previous releases, before their contract with Misanthropic, they had played a punkier style, more reminiscent of the death rock bands of the 80s.

Cold Heaven still shows traces of the more straightforward and punkier past of Babylon Whores. While the beginning riff played alone in that massive tone sounds very metal, once the drums come in with a fast tempo and the guitar tone is toned down to a thinner yet angrier one, you can hear lots and lots of punk. You can also hear one of the more distinctive production techniques Babylon Whores use i.e. using different guitar tones for different guitarists. Mostly when playing rhythm, both guitarists follow the same pattern though Antti Litmanen tends to throw in some harmonics at the end of bars. Deviltry, the song that starts off the album, is, along with Metatron, the song that most strongly shows off the punk remnants of the band. Usually the songs are introduced with a rather simple yet punchy and catchy riff. This is superceded by Ike Vil's vocals as they come in for the verse and Vil doesn't let go off the song until almost the very end. But this isn't really a problem since he has charisma and versatility. His smooth voice is usually mid-ranged, but can roar very convincingly should the song call for it. This is used very sparsely on the album though as is his hoarser shout, more common on the earlier releases. There's also a certain rough and charismatic edge to his crooning on Omega Therion as well.

The fact that a lot of the songs do repeat the same structural formula makes the album feel a bit like just a collection of songs rather than a cohesive whole. Songs like Deviltry, Metatron, Beyond the Sun and Babylon Astronaut can end up sounding very similar to each other in the ears of a casual listener, even if to a distinctive ear the differences are notable. But they all are straightforward rockers with verse/chorus structure and while well written and entertaining on their own, sometimes can end up sounding like snacks between proper meals. Omega Therion and In Arcadia Ego are the two slower songs, which feature a lead instead of a riff as the driving force of the song. Lead playing is very sparse on the album altogether. Deviltry is the only one to have a solo and even that one is short and almost unnoticeable. Some songs feature little twiddles, but these are usually gone in seconds. It is a shame since Antti Litmanen is an excellent lead player. The two slower songs, along with Enchiridion for a Common Man and Flesh of a Swine showcase another sort of songwriting. All four subtly, and with varying speeds, build up to a climax near the end of the song and then slowly fade out into obscurity. Enchridion for a Common Man does this best with its mystical lyrics with nods towards history and occultism yet being about the journey of life. Ike brings his most powerful vocal delivery, sounding first calm and cool, then menacing and convincing, especially when telling how he would be happier with a dangerous and adventurous life rather than a peaceful and tranquil one and how it can be 'plain sodomy from behind'. Right after that the climax hits with the guitars going into overdrive, Litmanen doing fast tapping while Ike's vocals turn to a roar.

The album as a whole is a bit on the short side, only 36 minutes, but that's just long enough. Evidently they were starting to run out of ideas for it: Flesh of a Swine already features a very dull chorus with one note riffs and extremely simplistic drumming, completely relying on Ike's vocals. Fortunately the rest of the song isn't as bad and the climax fading out into the album's self-titled outro is tastily done. Some of the songs - especially Enchiridion for a Common Man - do show the latent talent of the band already, but all in all it's a much more mundane album in comparison to Death of the West. Much closer to standard - if extremely heavy - rockish heavy metal, at least in terms of songwriting. The sound itself is more reminiscent of death rock-gone-metal that they've always used to describe themselves.