Eight years. It’s insane to think I’ve virtually waited a third of my lifetime for a second Coldworld album. Georg Börner‘s first full-length with this project, Melancholie², arrived at a perfect time in my life. Perfect as in the album scratched a very specific itch; everything else at the time seemed imperfect to the point of wanting to throw it all away for good. I was listening to a ton of ‘pretty’ atmospheric black metal at the time, but something about Coldworld stood out. It was completely bombastic and overly sentimental, nearing point of ridicule, but it worked on the merit that it felt completely sincere. When depression or tragedy hit, it always feels hyperbolic. Coldworld’s mesh of pure Romanticism, lo-fi black metal, and light progressive touches made Melancholie² an instant favourite of mine.
It’s enough to say that my excitement for a follow-up never wore out. Even if my tastes have since veered toward increasingly dark and experimental music, the return of Coldworld would inevitably mark a significant full circle for myself as a listener. It took roughly eight autumns for Coldworld’s own to finally arrive. By general standards, Börner has created a great atmospheric metal record. By the standards of eight years’ wait and a masterpiece that preceded it, however? I love Autumn, but I feel mixed about it. Perhaps it’s because the airy depressive sound is less striking in the midst of countless bands having done the same thing in the interim. Perhaps it’s the less consistent emotional tone of the album. Admittedly, the relative disappointment could even be a result of the fact that I’m not the same person I was a decade ago. Autumn is a great album, but it’s far from the quintessential masterwork I might have been hoping to hear.
Autumn is an eclectic bag of emotions, reeling between the depressive, uplifting, aggressive, and mild. With such a wait, it makes sense that Coldworld would want to say so much in little time. Where the first album was a singularly depressive experience, Autumn means to reinvent the feelings of the listener with every track. ‘Scars’ is a cathartic and melancholic opener—those two words, by the way, will probably be used to death to describe this album in coming months. The blastbeats and shrieks are tempered with melodic guitar leads and gorgeous violin. ‘Void’ stresses this contrast between dark and light even further: segments of the song are knee-deep in depressive murk, only to give way to bright post-rock airiness and airy female vocals. Whether it’s from song to song or within the songs themselves, Coldworld’s latest material always looks to balance the two extremes. The result, more often than not, is something beautiful that nonetheless could have gone farther with less compromise.
Even if Autumn suffers from awkward emotional flow, Coldworld once again handles both extremes brilliantly. ‘Womb of Emptiness’ is one of the best atmospheric black metal tracks I’ve heard this year, rising and falling in predictable fashion but hitting all of the right marks. As a composer, his best work is found in ‘Autumn Shades’. Even if it pales lengthwise compared to ‘Womb of Emptiness’ before it, the classical harmonies and chord progressions tug at that nugget of perfection I know Coldworld is capable of. Even if the clean vocals run a bit thin (reminding me closely of Herbrand Larsen from Enslaved), I can feel that intimate sensation of my heart slowly breaking while I listen to it. That is Coldworld.
There is such perfection here. Unlike the debut however, it’s mired in a list of less successful elements. Throughout listening to Autumn, I felt myself wondering what kind of mood Börner was in when he wrote the thing. For the debut, I could envision the man literally dredging himself out of a sea of molten depression in order to bring the music to life. Compare that to Autumn, where I’m still left unclear on what the emotional intent was supposed to be. There is light and dark, sure, and I gather that’s the kind of balanced experience Coldworld means to evoke. Even so, getting dragged down into the murk only to have the music abruptly switch to female vocals and nice-guy post-rock feels awkward. Or consider how serene the violins are on ‘The Wind and the Leaves’, only to cut out of the mix and make way for hateful riffs and dread via ‘Climax of Sorrow’. Where is the intuitive flow? There have been times listening to this album that I’ve felt convinced Börner wasn’t inspired by these extreme feelings writing Autumn, but rather the memory of having felt them at one point.
I guess it’s easy to feel jaded when someone’s waited for an album for so long. It would take a master argument to put this in the same aisle as Melancholie², but Coldworld has a brighter future ahead of it than the dark depths of its music sometimes imply. If Autumn fails to create an overarching emotional journey like its predecessor, I can at least love it on the grounds that it’s a fantastic collection of atmospheric black metal pieces. I can only hope that we hear another album like this from Coldworld without having to wait so many seasons.
03) Womb of Emptiness
04) Autumn Shades
05) The Wind and the Leaves
06) Climax of Sorrow
08) Escape II