COLDSPELL – Out Of The Cold

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The second album by Coldspell ticks all the right boxes for a great sounding melodic rock release almost instantly. The Swedish five-piece don’t offer anything that could be described as cutting-edge, but certainly have a firm grasp of hard rock in the Heaven’s Edge/early Dokken vein.

Opening with a chunky riff, ‘Run For Your Life’ is a great example of Coldspell at their best, especially once the riffs get a bit of extra weight from some old fashioned slabs of organ work. Niklas Swedentorp’s vocal is strong throughout the number, with the almost obligatory slight European twang to his voice. The rhythm section are solid, but it’s Michael Larsson’s guitar work which really gives Coldspell their slightly harder quality. His featured solo near the track’s end, although fairly short, has a great tone and feel – particularly during a brief multi-tracked section. A similar punchy riff drives ‘Time’, although here, parts of that riff are accompanied by some very old-school keyboards (courtesy of Matti Eklund) which have a dominant sound which wouldn’t sound out of place on any given number of Euro melodic rock discs. Of particular note are the moments where Larsson opts for a cleaner guitar tone on the verses; while Coldspell’s music doesn’t always offer much in the way of respite from solid hard rock riffs, there are some welcome moments where the vocals get more room to breathe.

‘The King’ also offers something a little softer, at least to start off with. Beginning with clean guitar work and a superbly delivered, gentler vocal, Coldspell sound very comfortable when allowing their music room to stretch out in this way. While Swedentorp’s doesn’t especially sound like any other specific vocalists, the softer end of his voice features a great soulful vibe – one which he ought to have been given opportunity to use a little more. Musically, it’s another decent number, where at first the drums are used sparingly while retaining a presence; the arrangement here is joined by a layer of keys with a orchestral sound. The opening of this track offers one of the album’s strongest vocal performances and even once the hard rock riffs kick in, Swedentorp’s voice sounds like the kind found in many a great rock performance. On another mid-paced hard rocker, ‘Angel Eyes’, bassist Anders Lindmark gets a brief chance to step into the spotlight; during the verses, Larsson’s guitars take a backseat, allowing the rumble of Lindmark’s bass to cut through. Aside from that, it’s business as usual though, with melodic chugging riffs and plenty of harmony vocals.

‘Seven Wonders’ doesn’t move too far away from Coldspell’s melodic rock blueprint, but features a slightly bouncier feel throughout. The rhythm section hit the mark without offering anything outstanding, while Swedentorp plays up his role as rock vocalist. The chorus isn’t as strong as some featured, but Larsson’s ringing guitar work leading into his solo more than makes up for any shortcomings. The title cut opens with an unexpected use acoustic guitar before launching into one of the album’s heaviest riffs. The main riff is driven by a great chug, over which Swedentorp’s voice is typically strong. A few of the instrumental bridges concentrate on the heavier aspects of Coldspell’s sound, with the drums breaking into brief bass-heavy flourishes on occasion. Melodic rock fans need not be put off at all, though, since the chorus brings some decent vocal harmonies with a strong hook and Larsson’s guitar solo provides another standout moment (with both elements bringing things back towards melodic rock territory). For great mid paced hard rock, ‘Heroes’ also delivers, thanks to a chunky guitar sound and gang vocals, but just when things begin to feel a little too metallic (in a Heaven’s Edge style), Eklund chimes in with a very old-school, Don Airey-esque keyboard solo.

One review claims that ‘Out of the Cold’ is a metal album as opposed to AOR, before going on to say that those who can’t tell the difference between the two rock subgenres are idiots. Harsh words, indeed. Fact is, while it’s not AOR per se, most of this album absolutely would not pass muster as a metal disc by most people’s standards in 2011. Based on Coldspell’s core sound, it’s obvious that particular reviewer has been ignorant of anything which could be categorized as “metal” since about 1989. Swedentorp’s vocal style is far too clean to be a metal singer; the rest of the band seems content to settle into very melodic, mid paced grooves, which certainly makes Coldspell far more in keeping with melodic rock. There’s nothing here that’s remotely edgy enough to be classified as metal. Other reviews, though, rightly praise the quality of Coldspell’s brand of melodic rock – and in all honesty it’s hard to argue, since each of the songs here are very well crafted.

It may feel a little old fashioned to some, but what Coldspell do, they do extremely well, making ‘Out of the Cold’ a really worthwhile listen for melodic rock buffs.

April 2011

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