I’ve reached a conclusion in recent times that the enjoyment gleaned from music at any particular time very much depends on my mood. I pick myself up by joining The Night Flight Orchestra; relax by basking in Mitch Murder‘s warm glow; wallow in self-loathing by screaming with Deadspace. While such a sentiment may seem obvious I also mean in a wider sense. My life was ebbing low at the turn of the year and I was finding new releases sincerely disappointing. But things improved by March and I was thrilled to re-emerge into the delight of arguably the best month of music since I started at AMG. While I stand by that comment I’m perfectly aware that it almost certainly reflects my new-found zeal.
However, Coldfells‘s self-titled debut first dispersed itself into my ears as I was held for 79 minutes between train stations as some poor bastard had jumped in the tracks. On the eve of 2 exams. I was not only in a shit mood but it was also the first disturbance of my fresh alacrity. I initially ascribed an unimpressive listen to these particular circumstances and resolved to give it more time, especially since the group shares personnel with the magical Nechochwen.
Coldfells carries across these blackened influences but is more largely derived from early 90s doom bands. It’s atmospheric like Anathema and Paradise Lost, similarly featuring prominent keys, choral backing and chunky, mid-paced riffs, though there are occasional accelerations to an angrier gallop. A mix of growls and cleans is preferred and both are relatively standard in execution. Diversifying this orthodoxy is the black metal which rears its head a few times per track, carrying out its tremolo-picked melodies slowly to fit with the prevalent doom. Fittingly, the production legitimately evokes the early 90s which is pleasingly nostalgic. Tones used are appropriately buzzing and the master is of the pre-Loudness War type (dynamic!). The bass is relatively light and the guitars are at the forefront of the mix.
It took a second listen but aspects did indeed engage me more. Of particular note are the tasteful solos which are surprisingly epic and not so surprisingly mournful and emotive. They’re distinguished from the impassive moroseness with which much of the music can be characterized by constructing affecting climaxes and are easily the most enjoyable passages. Furthermore, “The Sea Inside” opens with a pleasant chord progression and the riff around the 3:05 mark is probably the record’s strongest. The ensuing vocal melodies are the closest to catchy too, ensuring this track is Coldfells‘s peak.
The issue is that such occasional good ideas are distributed far too intermittently throughout. They almost stick out too much: they’re so infrequent they’re rendered mere additions to the dreary surrounding music rather than elevating the entirety. A sort of lethargy embeds within a few minutes and only these few snippets interrupt this. I acknowledge that there may have been strife towards an intentionally depressive atmosphere but most of this is just dull. Almost nothing is done to engage the listener on a minute-to-minute basis and where effort is made, it feels too minor a gesture.
Coldfells have begun their story with all the gloominess one could ever desire but it’s toothless experience. I’ve endeavored to give them a particularly healthy number of listens after those adverse preliminary surroundings but it still occupies the weaker end of the spectrum of music I’ve heard in March. Spacey and ambitious in its tying of older styles but lifeless and tedious in execution.