posted on 5/2009 By:
I think the last time I reviewed an album from Napalm Records, I swore that if they sent me another album full of those infuriating promo voiceovers, I would give it straight 0s. I think I was counting on said album to be something dorky like Battlelore or retarded like Jungle Rot; I certainly wasn’t expecting Hellsaw. It doesn’t hurt that the mega-Euro-sounding voice telling me what I’m listening to is quieter and less intrusive than it was the last time around, but I mostly refuse to pan Cold because it’s a straight-up rockin’ black metal album.
Hellsaw are experts in that most reliable tactic of metal songcraft: taking bits and pieces from beloved predecessors and stringing them together into something that isn’t really new, but sounds fresh enough to entertain. Specifically, these Austrian dudes draw from the likes of mid-period Enslaved, Satyricon, later Immortal, Gorgoroth, and maybe a touch of modern American depressive melody (Wolves in the Throne Room, Woe) when crafting tracks, while a nicely modern production renders everything audible and pleasing to the earmeats.
Cold is neither an edgy, modern ‘progressive’ black metal disc nor a stolidly traditional release. Instead, it walks a middle path, varying its approach from track to track. Opener “A Suicide Journey” and “Der Harzwald” both feature delicate acoustic guitars alongside harrowing, icy melodies in the Norwegian tradition. “A Suicide Journey” in particular sees the band show off their capacity for stylistic variation, transitioning from straightforward black metal to proggy Enslaved-style grooves set to very Norse keyboards. Meanwhile, “I Saw Hell” and “The Black Death” feature tenacious black’n’roll assaults that lope along with an almost recent-Darkthrone-style swagger, albeit with a much cleaner production. “Cold Aeon,” on the other hand, thumps with a near-thrash gait that could have come from a Destroyer 666 track. Hellsaw deliver the whole range of approaches with aplomb to spare, nailing down riffs with grim—‘scuse me, GRYM—efficiency.
Of course, the obvious problem with Hellsaw’s approach is the fact that nearly every part on Cold could’ve been written by another, better-known band. But when the delivery shreds as hard as it does here, that complaint seems a little wrongheaded. Even if you choose to take issue with the band’s derivative nature, there’s no denying that Cold is rife with kickass black metal riffs—moments like the epic, harmonized arpeggios on “Ache” and the desperate fist-pumping pace of “Psycho Preacher” are hard to resist. Damn you, Napalm, you got me again—but seriously, stop it with the voiceovers.
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