ColdWorld – Isolation Review

Isolation is ColdWorld’s coldest album. In spite of the snowy fuzz that graced 2008’s debut Melancholie² or the decaying grim tones of Autumn, Isolation lives up to its name in the bleakest way imaginable. It nearly forgoes its depressive and atmospheric black metal roots entirely for an album with utmost restraint, organicity taking precedence over rawness or intensity. Encompassing more wintry post-rock soundscapes and doom tempos, Isolation is held high by the pillars of loneliness and patience. Composed during the long exile of the pandemic, ColdWorld’s sound ascends to a new plain entirely.

Minimalism is a core approach to Isolation, sprawling and thoughtful. Black metal shred is utilized as a climax throughout the album’s forty-four minute runtime, while violin and ambiance exemplify the emotions more intensely than its guitar tone ever could. It’s stark and raw, an unfiltered emotional experience untouched by black metal’s grim façade. Although punishing throughout in its own way, Isolation can feel more like a post-rock album with black metal crescendos than anything similar to the Mayhems or Darkthrones of yesteryear. Doom tempos with mammoth riffs feel largely an afterthought and its DSBM tones a la NONE no longer feel the focus. What remains is one of the most patient black metal releases of recent memory, and one of the most desolate.

If you say “wintry black metal” to any well-versed metalhead, you will get a myriad of name drops in response. While ColdWorld largely encompassed an epitome of the style with its debut, Isolation transcends typical atmoblack tendencies in favor of a minimalist style more akin to Godspeed You! Black Emperor than Immortal. Gorgeous melodies grace tracks like “Soundtrack to Isolation” and “Five,” but the songwriting separates it from feel-good post-rock in peeling back layer upon layer, revealing a frigid rawness beating below. Doom plodding graces “Walz” and aptly crushing “We Are Doomed,” its density interwoven with violin and keyboard ambiance, creating a desperate sound that enhances this stark atmosphere. Vocals are surprisingly evasive, cleans dominating much of the album’s forty-four-minute runtime – even openers “Leere” and “Soundtrack to Isolation” are mostly instrumental, aside from subtle croons in the latter. Black metal climaxes are often tempered by the grace by which they emerge, as tracks like “Wound” and “Hymnus” utilize cleans to capitalize on the raw riffs, the chord structure akin to the apathetic tones of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven.

It would be easy for ColdWorld to go the way of Deafheaven, but the difference lies in the focus. While Sunbather makes a paradoxical blend of lush and vicious, Isolation’s simple melodies and patient songwriting amp up the emptiness. Repeated riffs of “We Are Doomed” and “Hymnus” are tethers by which we are held to land, but even ambient tracks like “Leere,” “Five,” and “Isolation Stagnation” serve to stick Isolation to its aptly cold atmosphere. ColdWorld has planned every movement with the utmost scrutiny, mastermind Georg Börner emphasizing growth and decay with the gentleness of falling snow. Guitar approaches rawness but dwindles into obscurity while violin hints at grandiosity but collapses into humility, an unlikely but apt fusion of Melancholie² and Autumn. That being said, if it’s second-wave black metal you want, look elsewhere, as blastbeats and tremolo are sparse. Isolation is brave, but without aggression, unafraid to look inward. If you’re afraid of what you see, you might need to look longer.

I have long assumed that ColdWorld is far more legendary than it actually is, hence I have sole proprietorship of its tag around these parts. Börner’s work has dwelt in patience, releasing in his own time,1 and Isolation capitalizes upon it in its most triumphant iteration. My first listens felt lacking and inconsistent, while the electronic touches felt anachronistic, but the more I unpacked Isolation, the more I recognized its genius. There is little anger to be found here, and instead an invitation for solitude and healing in the cold. Isolation is raw and bleak like any black metal album should be, but undeniably beautiful in ways no one does better.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Eisenwald Records
Websitescoldworldofficial.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ColdWorldOfficial
Releases worldwide: September 30th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. i.e. 2008’s Melancholie² and 2016’s Autumn.
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