Cold Black – Circles Review

Artery Recordings. We meet again. Your last release featured on this website was one of the great crimes against humanity in recent times. And now you have the cheek to submit another promo to us?! Us with our objective opinions and devout obstinacy towards all forms of metalcore?! And them with those hipster haircuts?! Someone get these guys a tombstone, I’m about to shred them.

I must admit that I did single out this promo simply for the Artery Recordings link. Cold Black are a young Danish band now releasing their debut called Circles. Considering their label it’s entirely unsurprising that they favor metalcore adorned with electronic elements, where they describe themselves as between metal and pop. Such a summary strikes fear into the very heart of all kvlt fanatics. I like metalcore as a sub-genre but it’s incredibly easy to execute it extraordinarily poorly. I confess that I was hoping it would indeed be shit.

I met the eponymous opener with glee as its ridiculous electronic melody confirmed my bias. Circles can largely be described as melodic metalcore, the likes of which has scarcely been heard before. The electronic elements including backing synths, faux strings, beats and pianos are more central than the guitars. These guitars are fairly clean and modern in tone, imbuing proceedings with a mild degree of heft but it would be tough to call them ‘heavy.’ The vocal lines are remarkably poppy, with a fairly level split between clean singing and somewhat rougher shouts. They’re not particularly harsh and the lyrics remain intelligible but they have just enough sneer in them for teens trying to convince their moms that it’s not just a phase. I’m tempted to liken Cold Black to Feed Her to the Sharks but without the legitimate heaviness of that band.

Circles is far from perfect. Though it substantially bears the hallmarks of the metal genre, it doesn’t feel very metal. Heavier parts bearing stronger drums and actual riffs are spaced out such that you’ll notice when riffs are truly used to convey the dominant melody. In the gaps, the light synths and clean singing are very airy which is not something I usually note in metalcore. The aforementioned opener suffers from this, as does “The Rain” and “Fire Walk.” Nonetheless, when riffs actually lead the way I’m struck by their potency. “The Rain” is one such example of a track saved by its excellent lead in the chorus. “Miles Miles” has a similarly great, recurring guitar line. I wish several more had been written and given prominence as they really elevate the music. Great riffs make for great metal. Who would have guessed?

The true saving grace for Cold Black, and the grace which consolidates Circles as an unexpectedly good release, are the insane vocal hooks. While the record starts slowly, the subsequent three-quarters are exceptionally infectious. It says a lot that after about 8 full listens I already know all of the choruses and many of the verses, and I still feel compelled to continue listening. “Call of the Wild” begins this run with a chorus which is as epic as this album reaches, while “Miles Miles” boasts the most emotion in its peaks. “Dead End Eyes” probably presents the simplest hook on which I was ensnared on my first listen. But the prime cut is surely the saccharine yet self-affirming “Throw Me to the Wolves” with its unashamed, cheesy positivity; “Throw me to the wolves and I’ll become… the leader of the pack! Throw me to the lions and hear me roar – hear me roar!” These simplistic lyrics are typical but I’m charmed by their innocence.

It’s therefore with great disappointment that I must conclude that Cold Black are not, in fact, the next black mark against life on Earth. I’m sure my encouraging thoughts will rub some the wrong way considering the poppy tools on Circles but it’s tough to fault the knack these guys have for writing a hook. Fans of the core should apply and I’ll be interested to hear if greater supplies of riffs are amassed for a sophomore release. Artery Recordings have redeemed themselves to a limited extent.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Artery Recordings
Releases worldwide: August 18th, 2017

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