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Old 01-19-2012, 01:29 AM   #745 (permalink)
Trollheart
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Out from the cold --- Coldspell --- 2011 (Escape Music)


Just missing out by days for inclusion in our “Meanwhile, back in the real world ...” section, this is a band who we sampled on the first “Devil's Ballroom”, back at the end of last year. Hailing from that coldest of cold countries, Sweden, Coldspell are a five-piece who have been together since 2005. This is their second album, for which they have dispensed with the services of their original drummer and bass player, who had featured on their debut album, replacing them with two new members who now make up the current lineup of the band.

Two albums in six years is probably not the most prolific, but Coldspell appear to be gathering momentum with the release of their second album “Out from the cold”, which has gained critical acclaim across the rock and metal spectrum, and gaining more and more fans every time they play live. With Sweden now well known for such successful bands as Therion, Evergrey, Hammerfall and of course Opeth, Coldspell have a good chance I think of being in the vanguard of new metal bands to come out of this icy country.

The album opens on deceptively lush keyboards, with a child's voice saying “We're heroes of the future” before the opening track, called “Heroes” kicks the door in, founder member Michael Larsson's guitar and the thundering drumming of new guy Perra Johanson laying down the powerful soundscape. THIS is METAL! But metal with melody. Vocalist and also founder member Niklas Swedentorp (I kid you not!) has a good voice, powerful but not ragged, well able to reach all the required registers without screaming or cracking. It's a good opening, and a statement of intent as Swedentorp yells ”We're heroes/ Of the new world!” Could very well be true: Coldspell certainly seem to be making their mark in the world of metal and hard rock. “Run for your life” is somewhat more keyboard-led, very catchy and again very heavy but with a great melody, some really Led Zep style fretwork by Larsson as the song rocks along at a fine pace. Matti Eklund's keys definitely add a different feel to the previous track, and it's not AOR but it's damn good rock!

“One in a million” is a little slower, but not much, and another great tune with lots of hooks and some great vocals from Swedentorp. Duties are more or less handed back to Larsson on guitar for this song, though Eklund's keyboards are there keeping pace with him and adding little flourishes here and there as needed. Great growling guitar opening to “Six feet under” and the song rocks along nicely, with some good keyboard and organ input from Eklund. Very catchy chorus.

For just a moment there I thought they were covering the Pink Floyd classic, as “Time” opens with pealing bells and ticking clocks, but any such notions are soon dispelled as the tempo kicks right up and sharp guitars carry the song into an original composition, a faster rocker after the last few, somewhat slower, tracks. Still, a cover of the classic would have been cool. Oh well. It's a damn fine song anyway, and it's followed by another, as “Save our souls”, the track we featured on “The Devil's Ballroom”, takes the stage, slowing things down again with a heavy rock cruncher. Man, just about every song on this is memorable, catchy, well-written and played with a lot of enthusiasm. These guys are going to go far!

All I need now is a ballad. Wait a moment, what's that fluty keyboard and acoustic guitar I hear? Could “The king” add the missing piece to this excellent jigsaw? Violins, slow drums, I like it, I like it. I'm going to go out on a limb (though not a very shaky one, admittedly!) and say this is the metal ballad the album has been lacking. Great vocals and backing vocals too, and Coldspell aren't taking the easy way out by singing about love here. Hmm, getting a little heavy with the guitars, could be I was wrong. Half-ballad? Power ballad? Whatever it is, it's damn good. Oh wait, I've said that already, haven't I? Well, it's true, and superlatives are beginning to run dry on me as I listen to this band.

Balladry, half-balladry, whatever you want to call it, it's forgotten as “Fate” cranks up, and the band go back into overdrive on another cruncher, heavy guitar backed by insistent keys, Swedentorp singing his powerful lungs out, and as I said earlier, these guys know how to do backing vocals. Great prog-like keyboard solo by Eklund here, then “Seven wonders” ramps up the power again, an extremely melodic and catchy track which trundles along on rails of steel and must be a favourite at live gigs.

Let's be fair here: Coldspell don't break any new ground lyrically. Most of their songs are typical metal fare, with subjects like how good they are/rock is, how you should never give up, as well as the odd semi-abstract theme like in “Time”, but they're not rewriting metal as a genre here. I wouldn't call them progressive exactly, but they're a cut above a lot of run-of-the-mill metal bands, and they definitely have a certain something. Even on their own website information is a little hard to track down, but I get the impression that founder and guitarist Michael Larsson writes most, if not all of the songs, and though as I say he doesn't get too creative with the subject matter, he definitely knows how to write a catchy song that stays in your head.

I would have thought there was a good chance that a track called “Angel eyes” might be a ballad, but no, the guys keep rockin' and it's another heads-down, stadium-stridin' stomper with some great guitar work from Larsson, who really does seem to be the driving force behind the band, though never to the detriment of his fellow bandmates. And the pace doesn't slacken as we launch into “Heading for tomorrow”, with some nice organ riding along the melody. Some great vocal harmonies help make this song pretty special, and that organ coming in again gives the song a little extra punch. Lovely country-style guitar opening to the closer, and title, track, then it revs up and it's another rocker that refuses to allow you to catch your breath before the album slams to a close.

It's hard to pick out a favourite or best track here, but that's not because there isn't one. It's because each track is as good as the next. There are no bad ones. I would maybe --- maybe --- single out “The king” or “Time”, just because they break the mould a little and step outside the normal scope of Coldspell's at times limited lyrical themes, but really, any song could qualify. And that's high praise from a picky bugger like me!

I tell you, the sun may not rise for part of the winter, up there in Sweden, and it may get very cold and dark, but with bands like Coldspell coming “Out from the cold” (sorry!) the future for Swedish metal is very bright indeed.

TRACKLISTING

1. Heroes
2. Run for your life
3. One in a million
4. Six feet under
5. Time
6. Save our souls
7. The king
8. Fate
9. Seven wonders
10. Angel eyes
11. Heading for tomorrow
12. Out from the cold
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