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Utter contempt indeed - 34%

Brainded Binky, November 23rd, 2014

Cold Crypt is one of a few black metal bands which only has one member doing all of the instrumental duties (talk about a lot of work!). It's also a black metal band that is basically the black metal equivalent to the retro thrash metal bands of recent years in the sense that the album "Utter Contempt for Life" is a shout-out to the Norwegian black metal bands of old (even though Raze is British). It's got all the trappings of an old school black metal band, right down to the shoddy production quality. Personally, however, I'm not a huge fan of so much the ambient aspect of it, maybe it's 'cos I'm not used to hearing that sort of thing.

This entire album almost consists of this bizarrely frightening and often morose ambient sound. Right from the get-go, on the song "Born to Abhor", you hear almost nothing but incoherent noise and a lack of drum power. I guess it's 'cos a lot of black metal bands do away with drummers altogether and use a drum machine, and it totally seems like the case here. Some really good evidence of this is in "Red Drenched", where in some parts, you hear the drum machine (or whatever Raze is using) playing blast beats.There are times, however where you can hear anything remotely resembling drums, and they can be heard in "Ugly Passion" as well as "The Herald of Sickness". Come to think of it, I'm not so sure if there's even much in terms of lyrics. All that we get here is either an audio recording of someone talking about gloomy topics (the first few minutes of "Purest Negative Thoughts" consisting of someone talking about suicide), or the growling screams of Raze.

Sure, you get to hear some guitar power, but there is very few of it, and it's mostly drowned out by synthesizer noise. It's mostly distorted too, sometimes playing only a simple riff here and there, but other than that, there really isn't much. The synthesizers, however produce a sound in which eerie would not be the word to describe. Perhaps a little too eerie, at least for me. I'm used to hearing more guitars than synthesizers, and I really don't like it when synthesizers take up much of the music. To me, the song "Purest Negative Thoughts" sounds more like some sick, twisted dance music made by some psychotic rave fan, not so much black metal. And then there's "Odium's Origin" which is basically nothing but noise. No guitars, no drums, not even the growling vocals, just disturbing synthesizer noise. That's not really what I look for when listening to metal. I personally think it'd be perfect music for some lousy found-footage horror film.

One of the few songs that even remotely resembles black metal on here is "Ugly Passion", it's got the guitars and the drums that we all know and love, and to me, it's a breath of fresh air from all that noise. Sure, the guitars aren't really playing anything that spectacular, but that's to be expected in black metal. There are times, though, where the synthesizers appear and take up much of the sound before going right back into guitar mode. Also in "Ugly Passion" are what appear to be violins, which briefly play a creepy riff before the song rushes back into action. Those violins are not what I expected, but hey, anything that isn't synthesizers!

There's also the production quality, a very common trait of black metal. As you would expect, the production quality is quite horrid, giving the album a sort of feel as if it were recorded in Raze's basement. I don't mind that so much, 'cos when it comes to black metal, a horrid production quality only adds to the music's dark nature. It does so here, too, but I just don't like the bizarre electronica sound combined with it. I would appreciate it more if there was more guitar bite, but, of course, there isn't.

If David Lynch ever made music, this is what his musical magnum opus would sound like. "Utter Contempt for Life" is basically utter contempt for practically anything related to a proper metal album. I guess it's what some people would call "art", but to me, all I'm hearing is background that is played at someone's house at Halloween just to freak out the trick or treaters. I'm sure some people would appreciate it, but not me. It's just not my thing.

Successful Throwback, But Makes its Own Mark - 90%

flightoficarus86, November 21st, 2014

I’ll admit, Utter Contempt for Life caught me off guard. It’s not explicitly all that original, but the various lo-fi elements come together so well. I could go on a long description of all of the different band influences pulled together to make this Frankensein, but I will leave that to the seasoned BM fans. Ultimately the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: Gritty, washed out guitar distortion; distant, indecipherable howls of agony; poorly mic’d drums; and a combo of traditional synth work with almost nintendo-sounding ambient elements. The one influence that is worth mentioning is Burzum for sure. However, I think this is different enough from what Varg puts out for it to warrant existence.

While the details state that the group is from the UK, I am convinced that this music comes straight from the depths…or at least Norway. I have a weird prejudice against UK metal bands of any subgenre, but this makes the cut. Everything is so experimental and just weird. Rarely do modern BM groups manage to capture the lightning in a bottle that was the early 90’s movement. But I listen to this and picture another corpse-painted teenager in a dark basement noodling around with a shit amplifier, hand-me-down guitar, and keyboard. That’s a roaring review to me.

Cold Crypt also show they are capable of beauty with the instrumental “Passing Through Whispers.” Not only is it lovely and well-orchestrated; it helps further prove that the off-kilter weirdness of the rest of the album is quite intentional. They also don’t overplay their hand by keeping the arrangement simple.

There is a heavy use of electronica on some tracks that works better than it should. At times there is a blurring of lines between the black metal of Burzum and the aggro-industrial sound of Mindless Faith. “Purest Negative Thoughts” is a prime example. The track is primarily driven by a thumping, bassy synth track after opening with the obligatory spoken word sample so common to groups like Skinny Puppy and KMFDM. As an avid listener of industrial, I have always felt that there is a kinship between these two genres. Both display a dark atmosphere, focus on minimalism, unusual takes on production, and utilize themes of anti-establishment. This may very well be the missing link.

The entire album is incredibly creepy and haunting. This could easily serve as the soundtrack for one of the early Silent Hill games. While I am not a huge fan of the ambient subgenre of BM, I found myself completely entranced with this. Even the fairly a-melodic sections like “Odiums Origin” managed to keep me interested. “Ugly Passion” is aptly named for its bizarre fusion of dissonant, clashing sounds and minor chords with a clear lust to be admired or at least acknowledged.

In the end, this struck a chord with me. I went in with very little expectation and left feeling surprised and satisfied. If you like ambient black metal, industrial, or just yearn for the old school sound; I am confident that you will like this.