Cold Northern Vengeance_MaelstromWhen I think of blackened Viking metal with influences from prominent Satan-centric places on this great Earth – such as Norway and France – I don’t necessarily think of New Hampshire. I’m no expert in American history so maybe there were bountiful Viking raids on picturesque seaside towns like Seabrook, but I can’t be sure about that. Nonetheless, Cold Northern Vengeance comes bearing gifts of such blackened Viking metal from their cheerful home town in the form of Maelstrom. Should you take note?

Cold Northern Vengeance hit on a pleasingly familiar vein of black metal, yet integrate a few variances on that orthodox sound to carve a little niche for themselves. Aggressive trem-picking and blast-beating typical of black metal is produced with a slightly modern flavor which works well without defiling the buzzy guitar tones and lo-fi production favored in the genre. This is most evident on the opening to “The Darkness of Once Was.” Indeed, this core is bolstered with nods to developments over the past 20 years, including somewhat atmospheric song transitions and folky tendencies à la Bergtatt, fairly prominent melodies adopted by post-Norwegian black metal, particularly on “Pierced by the Tree” and “Seeker of Secrets.” They even include dissonant flourishes and something close to a wall of noise on “Seeker of Secrets,” popularized by French bands such as Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord. Indeed, the concluding track “Paradox” is entirely atmospheric, and thus closer to atmospheric US black metal.

Advertised as Viking metal on their promo sheet, the clearest demonstration of longboat-fervor are the baritone cleans which occupy most of the tracks on Maelstrom. While there are shrieked vocals, they’re relatively infrequent as Viking chants take center-stage. This is a neat idea and differentiates Cold Northern Vengeance from their competitors, but they become a little passionless as the album progresses and the same somber chants accompany whichever little twist on the formula is being incorporated. More emotive chants or a better split with extreme vocals would improve the music. “Eye of the Storm” bears the strongest Viking characteristics, with echoing chords to begin and a vaguely epic mid-section. In addition, the atmospherics of “Paradox” are punctuated with the distant cries and clangs of battle, reinforcing this inclination.

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There isn’t much directly wrong with Maelstrom. The melodic riffs are solid without undermining their kvlt origins by veering into anything too sensitive, and “Seeker of Secrets” and “The Darkness of Once Was” are the clear highlights, offering the best examples of their Viking and blackened influences. But as before, the baritone cleans lose their shine after a couple of tracks, are overused, and lack dominant force to grab the listener’s attention. The quickly formulaic water sounds used as song transitions lack imagination, and the album falls flat around the middling third and fourth tracks. It just isn’t outstanding despite the positives, and I find myself without a reason to listen to this over many other black or Viking releases. There are plenty of records out there which aren’t bad but aren’t great and this is one of them. My listlessness is certainly exacerbated by the album’s limited dynamics which ensure the guitars require some effort to distinguish.

In all, there’s certainly talent and potential here but it’s not yet fully realized. Various forms of black metal are subtly integrated and the Viking chants over full-speed aggression would be good in smaller doses. But Maelstrom lacks the oomph to take it over the top, especially in an October replete with excellent releases. Another release, another year perhaps.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps MP3
Label: Moribund Records
Websites: Facebook.com/ColdNorthernVengeance
Releases Worldwide: October 30th, 2015

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  • basenjibrian

    Some of us feared AMG was getting “soft”, but it seems the numerical scores are beginning to trend downwards again!
    (Best review site on the web!)

    • Grymm

      Oh, there are some which are gonna trend further down. Mark my words.

      • You wot m8?

        The foreshadowing is real…

        • basenjibrian

          The negative reviews are the most fun. Plus, they forestall the “need” to spend more money on music. :)

        • Dr. A.N. Grier

          So is the clickbait.

    • We aren’t changing our stripes anytime soon. Don’t you worry.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Don’t you worry, we’ll never go soft. The only people who should worry are our physicians, actually.

  • That album art….erf.

    • basenjibrian

      It’s MAJESTIC, man, MAJESTIC. It speaks to the glorious 13 year old boy in its market segment!

      • And that busy logo of theirs just cements the artwork. It’s as if someone started painting human forms like Bob Ross painted trees.

        • Just a happy little sea witch, happy little bosoms…but don’t go crazy now.

          • I was hoping (in this review) for the most ho-hum of music critiques and an absolutely glowing review of the album art. I mean how can you overlook such artistic prowess?

    • Martin Knap

      the head is clearly not in the right place…

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    haha and a unicorn shaming!!! its been to long.
    I want that air brushed on my car!!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      That’s what would have happened if Spock had followed the light.

  • Matt slatz

    It’s good to see the chick from nachtmystium s addicts album is getting out and enjoying a little fresh air