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–COLD RAVEN: Equilibrium and Chaos (Sliptrick Records, 2015)

Cold Raven Equilibrium cover

–COLD RAVEN: Equilibrium and Chaos (Sliptrick Records, 2015)

Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of black metal. Let’s just get that out on the table up front. I intend no disrespect to musicians and fans of that genre; it’s just not my cup of tea. But setting aside sub-genre labels, which tend to be too limiting and confusing anyway, I champion a wide variety of rock and metal music on this site. It doesn’t matter if it’s old or new, underground or mainstream, if it sounds good to me, I’m going to embrace it.

Enter: Cold Raven, a new and mysterious black-metal trio evoking sonic images of frosty Northern winter lands, ancient pagan rituals, black-and-white corpse paint, and controlled anarchy. These stereotypical black-metal themes might seem contrived and irritating to the unconverted, except for one crucial factor: Cold Raven’s music is good. Damn good, in fact. These Italian metallians (sorry, I couldn’t resist) know how to weave catchy riffs and beautiful melodies within the general framework of black metal, resulting in a thoroughly melodic and entertaining record.

Formed in January 2013 by vocalist UrielRaka and guitarist Haures, and later adding second guitarist Vuall, Cold Raven, quickly went to work writing and recording songs for their debut full-length album, Equilibrium and Chaos. Equilibrium… was released in spring 2015 to numerous accolades by the international press, and they have performed with black-metal stalwarts such as Nargaroth, Dark Funeral, God Dethroned, and Belphegor. Judging by the quality of the compositions on Equilibrium…, Cold Raven’s early success is no product of mere hype.

Fans of traditional black metal should love this record, naturally, but its style also should appeal to a wider range of metal fans. My novice ears hear obvious references to BM giants such as Immortal and Emperor, but I also hear possible influences from the early ‘90s Scandinavian death-metal scene. When I hear the swirling, speedy, and hyper-melodious riffs on a song like “In Worship with My Inner Darkness,” I am harkened back to the exhilarating speed-metal and omnipresent melody of early ‘90s Sentenced (circa North From Here) and In Flames (Lunar Strain). There is also a doomy, atmospheric quality to some of the riffs, hence their use of the self-descriptor, “doomed black metal.”

There is plenty to like about Cold Raven. Their music is as melodic and atmospheric as it is aggressive, successfully transcending artificial sub-genre barriers. Guitarists Haures and Vuall employ a plethora of styles of extreme riffing, from crunchy gallops, to circular bursts of speed, to infectious doom-like grooves. The riffs are chock full of irresistible harmonies and countermelodies; in fact, the guitar work on display here is beyond critique. Haures and Vuall pepper Equilibrium… with plenty of fluid neo-baroque leads and solos. But the lead work is always in service to creating beautiful melodies, not in showy self-indulgence. The album’s pacing mostly falls into the mid-tempo category, but Cold Raven mix it up with the occasional half-time groove, alongside brief explosions of double-bass drum/blast beats. This complex interplay of intricate riffs, harmonies, melodies, and odd time signatures manage to engage and entertain the listener for Equilibrium’s… seven tracks and 40 minutes of running time.

UrielRaka’s vocals are an acquired taste, as might be imagined. His vocals fall within the mid-range of a BM raspy growl, and they are mostly decipherable. The production on Equilibrium… is crisp and clear without causing ear fatigue. Really, the only significant critique I could offer Cold Raven is that their music is more riff-oriented than song-oriented. A plethora of musical ideas are presented in these tracks, sometimes without enough refrains or hooks to cement individual songs in the listener’s mind. That said, songs such as “No Mercy,” “In Worship with My Inner Darkness,” and the title track are plenty memorable.

Cold Raven have successfully warmed my heart again to some tasty melodic extreme metal. Please give them a listen on Facebook and feel the frostbite.—Jonathan Kollnot

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on March 21, 2016.

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