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Sapping the spiritblood - 70%

autothrall, May 4th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Les Acteurs de l'Ombre Productions (Digipak)

There's a dichotomy on this latest Cold Cell album, on which I find the moments where they drift furthest away from the core considerations of their genre to be its most inspired, interesting and memorable, while a lot of the heavier elements end up feeling repetitive and less capable of putting me into a trance. That's not to say they are weak when they are piling on their largely mid-paced atmospheric black metal, which is likely the dominant force through much of the 49 minutes of material, but every time they drift in and out of some dream-like fugue, I am transported to a place that is more haunting and capable of getting under my skin in a shorter period of time. I think it's just a matter of the actual black metal riffing becoming a bit more commonplace and less able to offer the unexpected.

To be fair, they do balance out these two extremes at several points, but I found that overall my engagement with the material varied, and while we're not dealing with excessively bloated songwriting, most of these are around the 7-minute mark, which is long enough for the tides of tedium to begin to settle in if not to completely overtake you. But listen to that intro to "Scapegoat Season", with the guy singing in just an everyman's voice while the creepy, reverbed acoustic guitars and roiling ambience escalate, or "Open Wound" with the freaky swell of orchestration and desperate, open rasps, these sorts of things set up the band to just deliver an emotional juggernaut, and when it comes to the heavier riffs they just don't really honor the expectations. Sure, the pacing and the retained atmosphere do their job, and sometimes the vocals, when they're pitched at a more tortured intonation, but just as often you're getting these riff patterns that just sort of drone repeatedly and uninterestingly off into the distance.

I'm probably making it out to sound worse than it is, because by no means is this a bad or incompetent effort. In a few spots, it's outright transcendent. There's certainly a consistency to the graying, wasting mood of the album, and the sustained riffs over the busier but almost monotonous blasting backdrop, with its layered and eerie guitars. They set a mood and stick with that, so if you dream of black and white, decaying shores, or can imagine your own being disintegrating into snowy gray flecks in slow-motion, this is an appropriate score. I think, as it is presented, the album passes muster, but there were just a few parts where I thought they were going to absolutely crush my soul with some blazing riff or rhythmic pattern emerging form one of these lushly melancholic ambient-like passages and that just never really came about. But if you're into spacious, dissonant black metal with some surface similarities to the French scene circa Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega, only not quite so twistedly adventurous or potentially explosive, then you could do much worse than to check out Cold Cell.


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.