'Melancholie' - Coldworld (10/10)
Whenever a conversation regarding the style of black metal comes up, its often only a matter of time before the talk about music gives way to a recycled banter surrounding a murder in the early '90s and church burnings that made the style infamous in the eyes of the public, as well as something of an unfortunate joke to many outside of the sound. The sad truth is that the misdeeds of a few Norwegian teenagers have ultimately cast a veil over the vast and diverse web of black metal, and that becomes even more of a shame when I hear such beautiful music like this. Coldworld is a one man project masterminded by the reclusive German Georg Borner, and although only making one EP and one full-length available to date, Coldworld has become something of an underground legend in depressive black metal community, and as the full-length aptly titled 'Melancholie' powerfully indicates, it really is not a name that will ever be forgotten as long as black metal is around.
The black metal that most outsiders are somewhat familiar with revolves around satanic idolatry and violent imagery, but Coldworld treads down a different wintery path, although the topics are arguably just as pessimistic. Suffice to say, Coldworld's music is labelled as 'depressive black metal' for a very good reason, and the sort of stories that G.B tells with his music often revolve around crippling loneliness, the loss of loved ones, and the only conceivable way to escape the all-encompassing darkness; a slow and brooding suicide. Sadness is an emotion that has inspired some both incredibly moving, and awful music, but Coldworld handles these dark feelings with a sense of class and what only sounds like a deep sense of sincerity. This is not an adolescent cry for help channeled through amateurish music, this is an album with a sound as vast as the ocean, and even a glimpse of hope through the snowy fog of despair the album crafts over the course of an hour.
For an album that has a relatively firm grasp of its subect matter, it is ironic that the lyrics here are barely intelligible. This is not so much a fault of G.B's raspy vocals as it is a choice to mix the vocals fairly low in the mix. This may be frowned upon by some, but it gives the vocals a chance to blend with the rest of the sound. The instrumentation here teeters between classically-inspired guitar riffs and textures, and even more sombre sections of ambiance. The metal aspect of Coldworld is filled with highly melodic guitar work that has a feeling of romantic devastation to it; even without the fairly sparse vocals, Coldworld creates a sound that instantly brings near-cinematic feelings of loss. The drums are straightforward and stay laid back throughout most of the album, this is not the blastbeat-writhing black metal; much of the music on 'Melancholie' could even crossover into the realm of doom if there wasn't such a light and textures-based approach to the guitars. On an added note, G.B brings in a few non-metal instruments to deepen the sound, including a violin, and even some electronic samples and the eerie theremin on the last tearjerking track 'Escape'. Some may find it a little tough to warm up to those sounds in depressive black metal, but it works beautifully.
The music is beautiful, and although the album can feel like it could use a little change of pace from the despair over its course, it ultimately works beautifully the way it is. 'Melancholie' is the soundtrack to discovering a loved one has cancer, and kissing them as they die in your arms. Not only is Coldworld's debut my favourite depressive black metal record, but among my favourite black metal albums ever, and while the sense of depression and sincerely devastating emotion may not strike everyone the same way as it did me, I cannot voice my love for this album enough.