Extreme Cold Winter – World Exit Review

The Dutch are often quite proud of their English capacities. We frequently top the list of most proficient non-native speakers, and expats often find it more difficult to learn Dutch because anyone who hears them struggling just switches to English instead, both to accommodate them and to show off. Which is why the moniker above is rather baffling to me. Shouldn’t it be Extremely Cold Winter? Or Extreme Winter Cold? Is the winter both extreme and cold? If so, in what other capacity is it extreme?

Well, enough whinging about the band name. It might not be a good first impression, but don’t let that fool you. The members of It’s A Wee Bit Nippy sport some impressive resumes, after all. You might recognize the subterranean growls of Pim Blankenstein from his work in Officium Triste and 11th Hour, and he is solid as stone here, his voice an earthquake in a gravel pit that’s nonetheless remarkably easy to understand. The drum kit is confidently manned by Seth van de Loo, who has played for several big names in the Dutch death scene such as Severe Torture and Infected Flesh. Finally, both bass and guitars are handled by A.J. van Drenth, whose most recent work includes Beast of Revelation and Temple. While the bass doesn’t have more than a foundational presence, the graceful riffs set much of the tone for World Exit.

And this area is precisely where the album surprised me, because going by the bleak imagery and titles, I expected death doom of the heaviest, crunchiest variety. The guttural vocals don’t dispel this notion much, aside from perhaps their intelligibility, but the guitar tone and riffs would not be out of place in Pallbearer’s oeuvre. Opener “Animals in Wintertime” functions as an encapsulation of the album as a whole. The main riff is majestic and forlorn, the pacing unerring and deliberate. The dual guitar style borrows from NWoBHM to combine heft and memorable melody. Background additions of atmospheric choirs and unintrusive symphonies push the grandeur even further.

The rest of the album consists of variations on this theme. “Time Space World” adds a cosmic element and a heavier, lumbering gait, and instrumental “The Sea Taketh” conveys the majesty of the cold uncaring ocean quite well. These variations are relatively minor, all in all; the pacing rarely strays from the slow stride and Blankenstein’s growl remains ominous yet stoic. It makes sense in a way; the album certainly feels like the sound was developed before the songs, and it’s a terrific sound, heavy and portentous, almost making up entirely for the relative homogeneity. A combination of 3 factors is the only thing undercutting the atmosphere; the lyrics are quite easy to understand, the vocals are mixed quite forward, and the actual text is not always as majestic as the music. “Permafrost Entombment“ falls on the better end of the scale, but “Animals in Wintertime” reads like a Sir David Attenborough documentary1 and much of the remainder is too on-the-nose to retain the mystique. It’s not ‘I AM THE TABLE’ level awful, but considering the vocal focus it doesn’t help the album’s case.

Still, the performances and the sheer might and thundering resplendence of the riffs are enough to make up for it. In fact, it is only the lack of variety on repeat plays that kept me from giving this an even higher score. If the citizenry of Arendelle were to rise up in Frozen 3 and publicly execute Elsa by beheading, this is the soundtrack as she is dragged up to the chopping block in slow motion, no doubt about it. Those with more tolerance for subpar lyrics or lack of musical variety will likely claim I’m underscoring this, but to me, these are the only things keeping Extreme Cold Winter from the top charts of the modern death doom scene. World Exit is certainly effective, but I know it doesn’t need much to be a whole lot better yet.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart Records
Websites: extremecoldwinter.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/extreme.cold.winter
Releases Worldwide: October 15th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Sir David Attenborough is amazing, but it’s a weird fit here.
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