Danish five-piece Cold Night for Alligators are described by their press kit as “progressive death metal with brutal technical hardcore, layered with tremendous atmospheric ambient sounds.” Doesn’t that sound great? I salivated at my luck, dreaming of this great new band that sounds like Cynic, Gaza and Hope Drone. Well, it’s funny how promo materials work, because when promo guy was talking about progressive death metal, he was talking about Periphery. Oh, and when he went on about ‘technical hardcore,’ that was in reference to the technical hardcore of one Maryland – based band called Periphery. But the ambient sounds? Straight outta Brisbane, baby! Hah, no it’s Periphery.
Admittedly, that’s an unfairly one-dimensional portrait of Cold Night for Alligators, which could also be described in reference to Textures, Tharsis They, and Outrun the Sunlight, but it’s pretty clear that the end product isn’t quite the prog-death of the average metalhead’s fantasies; it’s Mansoor-approved djent. If the band wanted to distance themselves from their bulbous roots, they should have branched out a bit more; it doesn’t help the comparison that the majority of their riffs are weirdly-timed chugs, or that their singer is a slightly more betesticled Spencer Sotelo.
That being said, after a few spins, Course of Events has started to grow on me. Though as dependent on genre tropes (the riffing, the guitar tone) as any other djent band, Cold Night for Alligators have a knack for melody, and there are quite a few songs with strong and memorable melodies. “Followers” establishes their strengths early on, and later on “Retrogress” spits out another winner. Yet there are also some real duds, like closer “Brothers,” which errs too far on the sappy ballad side of things. On occasion, the band will go full on tech-metal, but their riffing here is lackluster; good tech riffs need to be more than 16th note runs and offbeat chugs, and few bands that aren’t The Dillinger Escape Plan can sustain this riffing successfully. Despite these missteps, the band keeps up a good pace through the album and makes a great effort in keeping the songs distinct.
Like many young bands, and plenty of prog bands, Cold Night for Alligators have yet to hone their songwriting craft. While Course of Events doesn’t suffer much from objectionable song length, the band seem loathe to throw out any music they’ve written, which makes for a lot of obtuse instrumental tidbits that don’t really go anywhere. “Querencia” suffers from this especially, with its Dream Theater-esque noodling damaging the later impact of its middle section, which unfolds in an effective crescendo. The following “Daydream” is only around three minutes long, yet goes through about eight riffs of varying quality; the band can’t really commit to any of them, and though one or two see light in more than one part of the song, they’re not really memorable enough to be rewarding upon their return, in part because it was never clear among the crowd of ideas in the beginning of the song what would be important.
As a progressive death metal album, this fails on every level, seeing as it isn’t death metal of any kind. But from djent/prog perspective, it’s not half bad. Overall, it’s listenable and maybe worth a few spins, but it sticks too close to genre norms to really make an impact. If you like djent, you’ll probably really enjoy this album, but I don’t, and (paraphrasing AMG‘s outlook on black metal) it’s weird to me that a genre so full of gear nerds and prog fans produces so much music that sounds exactly the same. Where’s all of the experimentation and creativity opened up by a massive pedalboard budget and intense studio production? Why does adding around half an octave of range to your guitar make riffs consist of fewer notes? Course of Events does nothing to address my issues with the genre, but at least it dodges them with style, and that’s good enough for a passing grade.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prime Collective
Webistes: facebook.com/coldnightforalligators | coldnightforalligators.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: January 11th, 2016