The Great Cold’s self-titled debut expresses very well a sensitive kind of intensity, an oceanic emotional state that ebbs and flows into anger, sadness, and despair, but in so doing offers glimpses of hopefulness. If this kind of description seems familiar, it’s because by now it might be as clichéd as a soft-hard-soft musical structure, but I urge you to keep the modernist in you at bay while bracing for the swift, chilling wind that this post-rock/metal album augurs. Like some of the best albums in this vein, there’s a very dramatic, theatrical character to its entire development.
The Great Cold works like a genealogy of certain Greek nymphs, a story beginning with “EOS”, the Titan goddess of dawn. It opens with a blastbeat and tremolos that make the track feel like it is hitting breakneck speed, quieting down at the middle in order to better push into a series of wide, simple riffs. It is a grand first track, setting the mood to one in which there’s nothing but grey skies wherever you set your eyes on, like being at open sea and suddenly confusing the water with the heavens when a storm is about to be unleashed. This feeling carries straight into “BOREAS”, one of the dawn’s children, god of the north wind and bringer of winter. Soaring riffs drive it, a melancholy that does not make the body fold upon itself, on the contrary, it’s the kind that turns heads upwards, that challenges the rain with a stern face. And who better to represent that kind of stalwartness but a mountain nymph? “OREAD” follows two aural threads that complement each other, a combination of hopefulness and sadness (…and yet, those majestic masses of earth never really could touch the sky) in the metal and post-rock modes.
“OREAD”, having marked this organic shift from dawn’s despair to the up-lifting melancholy of mountains, leads into the interlude of “CHIONE”. It is a soft transition track, the daughter of Boreas and a nymph of snow. When the triumphant “AURAI” kicks in, all roar and thunder, it retrospectively gives “CHIONE” a calm-before-the-storm quality: I spent the whole of “AURAI”, my favorite piece of the entire album, thinking back to the last track, how the breeze, that collective of winged nymphs and daughters of the four cardinal winds, clears the sky after the snow and reveals the sun in all its glory. There might be a Deafheaven reference in there, but in order to not find it, I will only say that the breeze dies down by the end, announcing the coming of “ORPHNE”, a nymph associated with darkness. The breeze is but a brief respite, like the snow, and when dark engulfs this grand stage upon which The Great Cold have heaped us upon, it’s breakdown time. There’s something sludgy about “ORPHNE”, heavy, heavy riffs that weigh the entire track down up until the very end.
“AESTERIAI” and “NEPHELAI”, the nymphs of stars and clouds respectively, mark the final shift in mood, a more distorted and playful sound that nevertheless continues the more bodily, head-banging weight of “ORPHNE”. “NEPHELAI” closes the album by turning this violent energy back into melancholy, like a sorrowful exhalation that immediately leads to tears. The curtains drop, and the journey ends.
The Great Cold is a good first step for the band, a solid release that shows them as knowledgeable of forms, very attentive to detail, and having a keen eye for the thematic. It is a promise, I hope, of something more adventurous in the future. (David Murrieta)