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This is the time of will. - 80%

Diamhea, December 18th, 2016

The Cold Existence is a decent and surprisingly obscure melodic death metal band that retains the old school charm of bands like early At the Gates and other Swedish mainstays. Sombre Gates is aptly named, being anything but an exercise in sappy melodic posturing or the plastic, forceless aggression that so often dogs the style. The album's sound is thick through the middle, with triggered drums blasting maniacally over a hotbed of razorblade riffage and surprisingly nimble lead work. After the mood-setting instrumental "Oracle," "Heretic" opens the riff gates and somehow the band doesn't blow their load early with this. In typical heavy metal record fashion, the first proper song sets the tone and the second is a groovier affair in contrast. "Corruption" opens with serpentine tech death rhythms and features ominous chords interspersed with harried tremolos. If there is a chink in The Cold Existence's armour, it is Sallander's performance behind the mic, which is an atypical pseudo-shout but not particularly standout in any other sector.

Sombre Gates is simply loaded with versatile riffage that will appeal to a wider audience than the post-Gothenburg fans of today who require endless major key melodic abuse to sit through a record properly. The Dissection influence is clearly here, albeit not significant enough to radically alter the sound. The band mixes monolithic, lurching groove intervals with dissonant passages injected into the riffing structure, with damn good returns. I suppose that the songwriting might fall a bit flat if the riffs don't appreciably sink in, as the lack of other exultant features or experimental bits. Still, there is an inherent enthusiasm to the material that carries it plenty far, especially during the blackened discord of mid-album crunchers like "Purgatory," sounding almost like Old Man's Child meets At the Gates. Cool.

Sombre Gates is certainly worth tracking down, as is the band's other full-length The Essence. What makes this album even better than that, however, is the exotic flair introduced on songs like "Ruins of Despair," adding even more verisimilitude to an album hardly lacking in such. The ragged, breathless vocals bark the narrative amid enough smashing riffage to fit two or three modern "melodeath" acts nowadays. The bright, thrashing sections are just as numerous as organ grinding death metal posturing and serpentine black metal dissonance. The Cold Existence seemingly knew what they were getting into here, and maybe the lack of response forced the band into an indefinite hiatus. That's a shame.