Profile: Wisconsin’s Doom Crew Cold Black River

Cold Black River

Wisconsin’s Cold Black River had a straightforward approach back when they formed in 2013: “We wanted to craft a stripped-down heavy sound with doom metal influences, decent hooks and vocals you could hear and understand.” Six years and four releases later they’re closely adhering to that statement and it shows on their most recent effort Tales of Death & The Devil, released digitally last year and now sees CD release on June 14. Their music is the slow burn type of doom; bluesy and smokey with vocals that are smoother than a perfect steak and a side of top shelf bourbon. They’ve been building to this and have finally pulled it all together into a cohesive firecracker of an album. In an effort to learn more, we recently had a chance to pose our set of Profile questions to the band and they were gracious with their time in answering but also gracious enough to give other bands some etiquette tips. Keep reading to see how it went down and head over to their Bandcamp page to snag a copy for yourself.

Cold Black River - Tales of Death and the Devil

How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped?

Eric Cobb (bass/vocals): I got caught stealing a couple of Cirith Ungol albums at a record store named Seventh Heaven in Kansas City when I was fifteen. I figured if I were willing to steal music, I might as well play it. As far as success, surviving takes up a lot of your time. Working, raising kids, etc. Despite life getting in the way, music has always been my go-to. I’m not where I thought I would be, fantasizing about music as a kid. That being said, I’ve experienced more success with Cold Black River than any other band in my career.

Jeremy Roseland (guitar/backing vocals): When I was fifteen or sixteen, my uncle taught me how to play guitar. That’s where it started for me. When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a millionaire before I was twenty.

Aaron Kanitz (drums): I started out playing drums in school band.

What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?

In Wisconsin, the scene seems to be growing, and the bands are incredibly talented. There are great bands and musicians in Madison and Milwaukee, but there’s a treasure trove of great artists throughout north and central Wisconsin. We lost some good clubs around here in the last few years, but in their place, half-a-dozen new venues, that cater to the genre, have opened in their stead.

Bands who break cardinal rules at shows are a major downer. Here’s some tips:

  • Be prepared.
  • Respect the other bands, even if you don’t like their sound, or if they are      amateurs. No one appreciates everything, and you started somewhere too.
  • Show up early, at least on time.
  • Setup quickly. No matter where you are in the line-up, you’re not the only band.
  • Know your material front to back. You should be able to play with your eyes closed or focused on the audience.
  • Make a set list, practice it at home, rehearse it with your mates, perform like a champ.
  • Play a tight set. Don’t bullshit around between every song. Don’t tune after every song – unless you’re Doyle. Every band member must know the set order.
  • Stop saying:
    • Can you hear everything ok?
    • This song is called…
    • The story behind the song is…
    • How many songs you have left.
    • Unnecessary band member introductions.
    • When your performance is over, get the fuck off the stage. Say goodnight, announce the next band; otherwise, get off. Talk to your drunk fans at the merch booth after you’ve taken your gear off stage. Don’t leave anything behind unless you are sharing equipment.
    • Make your presence know during the early bands; stay for the late bands. Don’t open a show, bringing your crowd, only to take your band and your crowd away with two or more acts to follow. Encourage your crowd to come early. They (you) might discover another band you like. Encourage your crowd to stay late for the same reason. This shows respect to the venue and the other bands.

We’re not in competition. We’re here to help each other out and to build a better scene, with appreciative fans, and talented artists producing their best work.

It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?

None of us are keen on the current political climate worldwide. We don’t outwardly preach what we think about it or religion, PC culture, or whatever the latest social crisis may be, but we do weave stories into our music suggesting which ways we lean and what our thoughts are on those subjects.

What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?

EC: I was ten or twelve when I came across Bark at the Moon by Ozzy Osbourne on cassette. I listened to that tape until it burned out. I built an “electric” guitar from plywood and fishing line. I would crank up “Rock n Roll Rebel” in my parent’s basement, jamming on my homemade guitar, imagining performing in front of thousands, sliding across the tiled floor like Chuck Berry. My mom hated it from the get-go. It was my introduction to darker things.

JR: I dug my way through my parent’s record collection, everything from Zeppelin to Priest. In fact, my parents took me to my first metal show. It was the Judas Priest tour for Defenders of the Faith – 1984. I was hooked.

AK: I remember hearing “Born to be Wild” for the first time, as a kid, driving around in my dad’s 73’ Nova as my introduction to rock.

What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?

See question three. Show respect to the scene and the people in it. Throw some love to the sound guy. Not just acknowledging him from the stage; get him high, buy him a drink, and if he’s doing a great job – tell him. Treat music like the art it is. People are putting a lot of themselves, personally and emotionally, into their art. Acknowledge that too. Don’t talk through a band’s set. It’s rude. Go to the bar or outside. The same thing with cell phones. Take a few quick pics, or shoot a quick vid; otherwise, put your phone away and be in the moment. You’re never gonna look at those pics or videos anyway. Enjoy the experience of a live show. Appreciate all the things that came together to put you right there at that moment.

What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.

Our plan for CBR is on track. In five years, we’ve released four studio recordings, been on a handful of compilations, played over one hundred shows, and met some amazing people along the way. With the release of “Tales of Death & The Devil,” we’re looking to branch out across the country, play some new venues (to us) and make some new fans.

When you’re not obsessing over your material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)

EC: I’ve been overdosing on Elder’s Dead Roots Stirring and SubRosa’s More Constant… lately. I just can’t get them out of my head. I listen to a local reggae show Saturdays at noon, and I often listen to jazz when I’m writing.

JR: I’ve been listening to Clutch’s “Blast Tyrant” on repeat, of late.

AK: Mostly Queens of the Stone Age and Kyng these days.

What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware?

We recently performed with a dozen regional metal bands at Fox Valley ShredFest in Appleton, WI. It was a stellar show. All of the bands were at the top of their game. We have a huge announcement we haven’t been authorized to mention yet. We’re really excited about it and cannot wait to share the killer new. Otherwise, we’re booking out the rest of the year into August and September promoting the new album.

Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication)


Many thanks to Cold Black River for their time!

Tales of Death & The Devil is available now in digital format and June 14 on CD format via the band’s Bandcamp page. For more information on Cold Black River, visit their official website.

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