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Cold Cell - The Greater Evil - 93%

Edmund Sackbauer, May 3rd, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions (Digipak)

While a new name to me Cold Cell have been around for a while. They have been formed 2012 and have just released their fourth full length “The Greater Evil”. Swiss black metal has gathered quite a bit or respect over the last couple of years, raising expectations whenever another output appears. Cold Cell easily fulfill those expectations, providing a great piece of music which manages to link the roots of the genre with some more modern and unorthodox influences. Their BC say in big letters “The Cold Cell that Proliferates in its Degenerating Host Known as Mankind”, so based on this words alone it becomes obvious that their music has more layers to it than one might think after an initial spin. While on the surface it could be classified as more or less familiar modern black metal reminiscent of acts like Mgla there are enough attributes that make them stand out from the pack.

Once it had cracked into me a bit and I would begin to count its many glorious details and impressive moments to return to on successive listens, the greater value of this album became more clear. That is to say it is a “grower”, aimed at a patient and perhaps somewhat more open-minded listener. That is not to say that it is hard to get into the music, it’s just that this is an album that warrants your exclusive attention when it’s on, otherwise you might not fully appreciate it. Riffs combine organically with the frantic drumming that pull you into its dark and somewhat distant soundscape, and the fierce vocals only enforce the chaotic nature of the tracks. The music is bold, defiant and captures the sheer chaos of the genre. The desperate and haunting vocals are the perfect instrument to spread the fear, with the singer spitting out the surprisingly thoughtful vocals in powerful manner.

The guitars range from fiery bursts of first and second wave influenced power chords to twining minor key passages. The drums follow suit with bursts of blasting freneticism followed by slower paced, clunky rhythms. One aspect that is very important for Cold Cell is the build-up of each song and the transitions between various parts. Songs like “Armoured in Pride” push a cold and desolate atmosphere to the forefront, as vocals laced with aggression and pain crash over a wave of breakneck riffing while more atmospheric pieces are woven into the overall picture. There are fast and more laid-back moments, and certain patterns are revisited again and presented with subtle variation at a later stage. The musicians are thoroughly commendable, each stamping their authority on every track with dominance that never overpowers any other.

The record is always furious and often unrelenting, but never overly chaotic, employing well-placed slower sections followed by segues into more technical passages and new build-ups to help contextualize the mayhem when it comes, and whenever Cold Cell decide to attack they do so with fire and brimstone. There is a certain harsh element hovering over the music, and every song is unleashing a seething torrent of scalding dissonance and insidious melody, scorching distortion, and blasphemous rituals, all of which combine to produce an overarching atmosphere of dread and fear. Cold Cell produce these kind of creepy feelings in more subtle ways than e.g. Akhlys do, putting the terror not so much front and center. The most emphasis has been put on write stringent and captivating songs, following interesting patterns and form a greater piece of art in their entirety.

Cold Cell manage to sound distinct from the often repetitive orthodox black metal sound, perfectly combining a lot of the attributes which make black metal such a fascinating genre with some of their own ideas. The amalgamation of the old and the new and the unknown – emotions of varying viscosity crash against each other to create something that sounds familiar yet exciting at the same time. The production is fantastic, very dynamic and powerful. For purists the sound might be a bit too modern, but music that comes with so many layers needs this kind of approach to really get the message across in the right way. “The Greater Evil” is an absolute statement of a release by a band with a bright future and I can only urge you to give this album a listen.