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Strong and menacing, but a bit too over the top - 67%

Drequon, December 26th, 2014

There's no doubt that 2014 was a fine year for doom/sludge metal: many excellent releases from both new and experienced acts, pushing the boundaries of the genre and showing that there's surely more to come. Coltsblood is a recent addition to the doom-laden universe, being formed as late as 2010 when John McNulty (V/B) left Conan, one of the despondent darlings of the British doom scene. Assisted by a female guitarist called Jem and a drummer boy named Steve (succinct monikers, those), John delivered "Into the Unfathomable Abyss", an album that sounds like a potentially fatal landslide, but only very VERY slow.

"Beneath Black Skies", the first proper song here featured, creates an extremely disturbing atmosphere filled with reverberating basslines, never-ending riffs and a voice that screams incomprehensible laments, almost impossible to hear behind such a massive wall of distorted sound. Abandon all hopes for melody or any moments of musical relief: Coltsblood wants to submerge you into their fuzzy, inescapable monstrosity without giving you a chance to cry for help.

Though they sure achieve overwhelming levels of sludgy atmosphere in places, it's also fair to say that everything sounds a bit too over the top after a while. "Abyss of Aching Insanity" and the aforementioned "Beneath Black Skies" are both good examples of such shortcomings: the sluggish beast coming out of the speakers sounds quite menacing at first, but it's all so impenetrably slow and blurry that the listener can't find the hook hidden behind the snowstorm, completely losing interest after a while. Consider that both songs are well beyond the 10-minute mark and perhaps you'll understand how tiresome it can become for the occasional, non-fanatical doom/sludge listener. Not that Coltsblood wants to impress such an audience, mind you.

Songs like "Grievous Molestation" and "Ulfheonar" fare considerably better I guess, with a (slightly) more upbeat drive in places and some interesting variations that only enhance the overall atmosphere, like waves at a giant scary sea. There's even some (quite surprising) blast-beating right at the start of "Blood", though everything gets as miserable as usual soon after that. Maybe this trail is one Coltsblood should consider for future releases, as their undeniable talent to conjure musical desperation is likely to benefit from some unexpected twists and turns from time to time. "Into the Unfathomable Abyss" is not quite there yet, but it already shows a band eager to explore the limits to their formula of choice, so I think it's fair to expect healthy levels of musical progression next time around.

Originally published at drequon.blogspot.com

Coltsblood - Into The Unfathomable Abyss - 80%

Witchfvcker, May 6th, 2014

Rumors of war…

The Liverpudlian trio Coltsblood was conceived around the time when frontman John McNulty left the mighty Conan, post Horseback Battle Hammer. Also featuring badass axewoman Jem and sticksman Steve (who has since left the band), Into The Unfathomable Abyss is a trip through a corrosive bog overflowing with mucous sludge.

Coltsblood is synonymous with downtuned guitars, slow crushing bass, and epic mythological themes. As the title suggests, Into… is also a staggeringly dark affair, akin to being deliberately tarred and feathered. Opening to pounding drums of war, “Beneath Black Skies” is a 14-minute epos of caveman riffs and crawling insanity. The rumbling thunder of McNulty’s bass is accompanied by intensely atmospheric guitars, fusing disturbing drone with a psychedelic touch. Relegated to the background, the frontman’s cavernous growls are like an angry neanderthal cursing his gods from the depths of his murky lair.

Tracks like “Blood” and “Ulfheonar” slightly pick up the pace, expanding into a triumphant stride akin to Conan’s later output. Of course, this being sludge, “picking up the pace” still means slow as molasses, each colossal note twitching and slithering, serpent-like. A terrible force, Coltsblood demolishes and pillages everything in the way of their wild hunt. Sluggishly bubbling up from the primordial soup, Into… punches you in the face and then crushes you under its massive bulk.

Surveying the barren lands they’ve left behind, Coltsblood appear as a intimidating entity. Although the impenetrable wall of bass is borderline exhausting at times, Into The Unfathomable Abyss more than delivers what the title promises. The oppressive sounds of murder and madness rarely feel as enticing as this.


Written for The Metal Observer