Posts Tagged ‘Cold in Berlin’

New Heavy Sounds – 11th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Cold in Berlin’s evolution has followed a fairly steady but swift arc: having emerged in 2010 with the spiky attack that was Give Me Walls, Rituals of Surrender represents their fourth album. That’s a respectable work rate, and over that time they’ve remained true to their dark, post-punk gothy roots, but have become progressively slower and heavier, the guitars growing sludgier, doomier.

In musical circles, there is always a ‘new strain’ emerging, even if said strain is a revisioning of an older strain. Not so long ago, it was post-punk revivalism, then there was a vintage heavy metal return, which in turn spawned the emergence of a stoner / doom / sludge hybrid. Cold in Berlin, having crashed in on the post-punk tidal wave are now more closely aligned to another more niche strain of the latter, namely colossally heavy female-fronted bands who bring an ethereal and emotive aspect to the sludgy / stoner / heavy template. Is it lazy journalism to bracket Cold in Berlin’s latest offering alongside Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and the last couple of albums by Chelsea Wolfe? Perhaps, but the references are at least instructive in terms of establishing a certain thread of stylistic commonality. But for every similarity, there are equal differences, and Cold in Berlin are most definitely a unique proposition in the way they balance the instrumental heft with Maya’s powerful vocals.

The album gets straight down to business with ‘The Power,’ which prefaced the arrival back in early September, accompanied by an appropriately moody, horror-hinting video. The bass and guitar grate and saw in unison over a slow tribal march. The tension builds and breaks in a landslide to a mammoth chorus.

The nine tracks on Rituals are heavy – plenty heavy – with some killer riffs. But that weight and the overloading overdrive is not at the expense of accessibility: the songs are clearly structured and benefit from strong and defined choruses.

Lyrically, the album is strewn with funereal imagery of death and decay, coffins and caskets, yet somehow manages to avoid cliché. The songs also pour anguish. ‘There is grief that tastes good in your mouth / there is grief that takes years to scrub out / There is darkness buried beneath my skin / there is darkness at the heart of everything’, Maya sings, pained, at the start of ‘Avalanche’ against a sparse sonar-like bass boom and a weeping drone of feedback before the drums and power chords come crashing in with crushing force. Can there be onomatopoeic instrumentation? If so, Cold in Berlin have mastered it, the pulverizing

The ritual aspect of surrender is never far from range: ‘You could string her up / you could string her up her body’s a temple for your love’ Maya sings commandingly on ‘Temples’ against a thunderous grind of heavily distorted guitars. Elsewhere, ‘Monsters’ is tense, intense, and grand, drama radiating from every note, and Rituals of Surrender is outstanding in its consistency.

Blending hefty riffology with full-lunged brooding, Rituals of Surrender sees Cold in Berlin occupy the space between doom and goth, emerging like Sabbath fronted by Siouxsie. And they do it so well: this could well be their definitive album.

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Cold in Beerlin - Rituals

There are rituals surrounding all acts of surrender; the strange dance we perform before the many endings scattered throughout our lives, before the next beginning rises from the dust. Cold in Berlin’s new album Rituals of Surrender, released on 11th October via London label New Heavy Sounds, offers up thunderous modern fables, crawling from the wreckage of an ordinary life – dark and hopeful – standing tall in the debris.

With new single ’The Power’, Cold in Berlin return with a dark slab of gothic doom just in time to soundtrack a burning world, which they describe as, ‘dark, black and infinitely heavy’. Listen now:

I can’t remember the last time I was in a dark room with so many people wearing shades. But then tonight The Fulford Arms is Old Goff central. It’s always the case when luminaries of the 80s scene play: they seemingly emerge out of the woodwork to descend on venues under the cover of darkness. Although with early doors and an early start, its not that dark when Grooving in Green hit the stage.

They’ve been knocking around for over a decade now, and Mick Mercer may be a fan but in a game of one-word reviews, ‘derivative’ would be theirs. Singer General Megatron Bison rocks snakeskin jacket and trousers. Their clunky lyrics and blatant appropriations from left, right, and centre (the first song repeats ‘awayyyyy’ in a bad rip of The Sisters of Mercy’s ‘Walk Away’) are paired with a theatrical, melodramatic delivery that doesn’t sit with the jovial banter, and their sub-Mission ordinariness makes The Rose of Avalanche look and sound strong and innovative. Tron has to hype himself into each of his rehearsed poses, and the overall effect is just… wincey.

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Grooving in Green

1919 originally formed in 1980, split in 84, and reformed five years ago, although the current incarnation features none of the founding members, or even anyone who featured in the 80s lineups. They’re from the punkier end of the goth spectrum, and musically, they’re not bad, with a solid rhythm section and some nice guitar work that switches between chunky chords and spindly chorus-drenched pick-work. Viewed from one angle, front man Rio Goldhammer has energy and presence, but ultimately, when viewed from any other angle, is a bouncing, irritating tit. And only a bozo would wear that jacket. Never mind the vest and braces.

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1919

Cold in Berlin are the clear exception to the billing tonight, being from the new wave of spiky post-punk acts. And it shows: this is a band that brings edge and vitriol back to the table, spitting and twitching. They’ve been on my radar and to-see list since they snared me with 2010’s pulverizingly sharp debut Give Me Walls, which channelled the best of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Skeletal Family an X-Mal Deutschland with its steely, serrated-edged guitars. Since then, they’ve evolved: they’re darker, heavier, doomier, but they’ve lost none of that early edge or the spark of nihilistic rage that defined them. The set may be dominated by doomy, slowed-down riffs, but they’re as much ‘Reptile House’ era Sisters and Sabbath in their grinding riffola. ‘White Horse’ is delivered at around a third of the pace of the studio version, but it’s still blindingly intense.

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Cold in Berlin

Maya makes frequent forays into the audience, from amongst whom she continues to deliver her full-lunged blasts of angst, while Adam (guitar) and Laurence (bass) step forward to the front of the stage to emanate maximum presence. They don’t just play: they perform. Not in a pretentious, posturing way, but in that all four band members operate as a unit and channel the force of the songs with a passion and intensity that far exceeds the sum of the parts. Band of the night by a mile.

Killing Eve are very much in their formative stages, and only have a demo EP to their credit an on the merch stand, but they have immense pedigree. Tim Brecheno, covering bass duties, emerged as the guitarist for All About Eve (his new project’s name a clear statement of a separation with that aspect of his past) before finding a place in the Vision Thing era iteration of The Sisters of Mercy and then forming XC-NN (who were actually pretty good in a trashy postmodern way) and subsequently Tin Star. Meanwhile, Anne-Marie Hurst was the face of Skeletal Family before the formation of Ghost Dance with Gary Marx on the explosion of the original Sisters. And this is why all the old goths have emerged tonight: these people are significant, and I can’t help but feel a certain reverence awe simply being in their presence.

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Killing Eve

From watching the show and watching the room, my perspective is clearly not necessarily representative. But then, how do you pitch this? I may be a fan and a critic, but I tend to write as a fan first and foremost, and it’s as a fan I let feeling disappointed. It’s tough to see icons of your formative years growing old, stepping down a league or two to the ranks of part-timers.

Something about tonight’s performance says they’ve been out of it for a while, and that given more road-testing, they’ve got the potential to regain some of their prior greatness. But then again, the material lacks bite and sounds a bit ordinary, on first listen at least. And any criticism is less about ageism than reducing edge over time: they still play with passion and perform with sincerity and energy and there’s no sense they’re going through the motions. But equally, there’s a certain absence of edge, punch, abrasion. They’ve got some solid tunes, but on first hearing, nothing really bites. But they seem to be enjoying themselves, as do most of the audience. And I’m not going to knock that – because fun is important.