Cold Northern Vengeance – Maelstrom Review

Band: Cold Northern Vengeance
Album: Maelstrom
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Moribund Records
Release Date: October 30th 2015
Country: USA


Look at that album cover for a second… It’s hideous! How on earth did six grown men ever settle for this as the end result? It’s not as if every album cover has to be a masterpiece, but a good album cover only helps your cause, right? I’ve discovered tons of great (and not so great) albums just by browsing through records and stumbling upon a cool, mysterious or funny cover. This would not be one of those records. It should be something inviting, or at least create some kind of curiosity. And it can be the “weird kind” of curiosity too…. (I’m looking at you, Cannibal Corpse). But this is neither inviting or interesting. But alright, ugly/boring album cover aside, let us get on with the actual review.

Luckily the music isn’t nearly as bad as the cover art (sorry, last time). Hailing from the USA, Cold Northern Vengeance describe their music as ‘Pagan Metal Art’. And indeed, this album was everything I expected it to be after I had read that term. The music is filled to the brim with occultism, viking chants, hypnotic riffs and creates a somewhat apocalyptic atmosphere. The first track, ‘Pierced By The Tree’, is already a great example of all of these traits. The guitars are very cold, dark and forbidding. The chanting vocals on top of these only add to the sinister atmosphere. And I couldn’t help but notice that the intro and main riff have a very big Primordial-feel to them.

Sadly though, ‘Seeker Of Secrets’ starts out pretty well with a moving melodic intro, but from there on sounds very similar to its predecessor. Maybe just a little too much. However, the music is still very captivating, and some deeper vocals make for a welcome change. What I would have liked though, is for the drumming to be a tad more audible from time to time. Because while I’m sure they wanted the guitars to get all the attention, it does bother me the drumming is often so low in the mix.

That’s not really the case on ‘Eye Of The Storm’. The drums are more up front, and I appreciate that. The drummer might not be the most gifted drummer to ever walk the earth, but he does deliver a very neat performance near the end of this track. Cold Northern Vengeance combine both their pagan and black metal influences splendidly on this track. The first half of this nine minute opus doesn’t offer anything we had not heard from CNV before, but it’s only around the five minute mark the music gets slightly slower and heavier, and then builds up pace and tension to end this track with a hail of blastbeats and fast, bestial riffs being thrown your way.

‘Waxing And Waning’ is kind of disappointing. It’s not bad, but the viking chants are slowly losing their charm and the riffs are starting to sound all too familiar by now. They need to give us something extra, and I’m sure they were well aware of that. Because they throw in some guitars solo’s to keep things fresh. And although the solo’s are definitely not bad, it’s not enough to save this very forgettable track. The next track however, ‘The Darkness Of Once Was’, starts out ferociously with heavy drumming and fast tremolo picking. The black metal influences take over once again, until they suddenly treat us with a very, almost cheerful melodic riff. The chanted vocals are finally combined with some more grunts and harsh, raspy vocals. And I can’t say I wasn’t happy to hear some more vocal variety. Furthermore this track features some great musicianship from CNV. They’ve proven before that they excel in playing both slow, heavy and dynamic while creating a dark atmosphere, as well as in playing violent and vigorous black metal. And they certainly stress this ability once more on ‘The Darkness Of Once Was’.

I both like and dislike the ambient, sample filled outro, ‘Paradox’. It’s alright, but also a little out of place, since there aren’t many clear ambient influences on this album before the outro. The outro starts with some rain and thunder in the distance, then there’s the ambient part with some spoken word and a Godspeed You!Black Emperor-esque violin. After that we hear some swords clashing, then a storm with some eerie synths again on top of it, then waves crashing… It creates an unsettling feel at times, which I assume is what they were going for, but it’s also a bit of a mess. And because it’s almost 8 minutes long, this track/outro tends to overshadow (in a bad way) the great track that came before it. So I had rather heard a different ending to this album. Or maybe even end the album with ‘The Darkness Of Once Was’. But that would also make this album pretty damn short of course… Still, I think this album would have been better off without the last track. Because ‘Paradox’ is a disappointing ending to an otherwise very skillful and enjoyable release by Cold Northern Vengeance.

Rating: 7.5/10

1. Pierced by the Tree
2. Seeker of Secrets
3. Eye of the Storm
4. Waxing and Waning
5. The Darkness of Once Was
6. Paradox

Total Playing Time: 42:43

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