Modern black metal is typically harsh and aggressive. Modern black metal bands invoke atmosphere by slowing down and ringing out notes on staccato-plucked strings, with slightly enhanced production rendering the instruments clear to the listener. Such is the case with Cold Fell on their debut full length Irwell.
You can feel the thud of drums blasting at breakneck-speed, and feel the grating of pick against steel strings. You might also manage to hear some bass. The overall effect of which is a heavy, nuanced vernacular of slightly-dissonant, often rampaging, screaming, and burgeoning wall of sound that lets up in direct paradox to the blast sections, slowing down and offering doom touches and vicarious high-pitched screams.
Cold Fell is a modern black metal band from the UK that doesn’t think in terms of modern or tributary second-wave. They do as they please, creating music that is truly noteworthy, that is sometimes catchy and complex, without needlessly crafting a record of technically-challenging black metal the likes of which is confined to few bands like Krallice. Cold Fell sometimes intimate the sensation of drowning in a stygian river where it is impossible to survive. Sometimes, the riffs are truly catchy and easy to enjoy, but always manages to sound original. Cold Fell doesn’t use a whole lot of borrowed riffs, passages that are hackneyed no matter how common. Indeed, the mysterious five-piece from Manchester, England is on to something great here with their debut full-length album, Irwell. It’s been some time that I’ve been as won over by a modern black metal band like Cold Fell. Think of last year’s Urzeit release Anmoksha, for a similar approach.
The drums are audible, as mentioned, and when the drummer smashes the cymbals to direct the tempo flooded with blastbeats and raging fill-ins and double-kicks, Cold Fell summons black metal majesty easily. This is only the band’s second release, and comes from a unit in close proximity to heralded act Wode, amongst others. Similar to Wode in the usage of big hooks and lush arrangements, neither band uses string sections or much keyboard washes to create atmosphere in light of the heavy, organic sound. The guitars are loud, and refrain from the lithe razor-sharp, icy tremolo picking typical of second-wave styled acts. This is certainly not another attempt at the Norwegian sound, and is rightfully modern without the inflammatory implication made by such a word. It qualifies as modern, but is beautifully rendered, heavy, often-times catchy, and epic in evolutionary quality typical of songs that breathe deep and stretches its legs to feature song structure that deviates from the standard stanza-chorus-stanza-chorus method, the way black metal of simpler quality has ceased to invoke in similar majesty by bands that used it long ago.
Cold Fell presents the best of the newer generation of UK black metal acts, and modern black metal in general. Irwell is a dive into a muddy tarn where all life ceases to continue. Think of the bass strumming on last track “Dream of Seppuku,” as an example of a band adding quality musicianship to offset centuries-old traditions of black metal minimalism. Morphing through passages that climax to the brilliant ending, Cold Fell presents as a band with an exciting creative trajectory, starting with Irwell and its beautifully-spaced ambient portions and brutal blast sections. Take a dive into a brash, organic sound that sufficiently entertains so much as it destroys.