I had partially listened to Cold Body Radiation’s debut some time before I received the promo and my first impressions were somewhat negative – this record neatly fits under the ‘post’-black metal banner (sometimes known as ‘blackgaze’), where a melancholic and depressive form of black metal is combined with post-rock and shoegaze elements. If you’ve been keeping up with the recent trends, you will know that this style is exploding in popularity, offering an alternative to extreme metal listeners who want something a bit easier to digest than raw black metal. Sure, you could call this ‘hipster’ black metal if you want, but I’ll assure you that this is no Krallice
or Wolves in the Throne Room
. There naturally exists a certain level of pretension with this record, but if you simply take it for what it is, it’s reasonably enjoyable. However, this combination of musical styles isn’t the most original one you will hear, but most importantly, Cold Body Radiation does not make the most of their ‘post-rock’ fusion, with most of the songs meandering into nothingness.
In terms of sound, this is a beautiful album. The clean passages are crystal clear, reflecting the post-rock values instilled in the music, and even when the distortion is brought in the various synths smooth it over. The way distortion is used on this record reminds me very much of Woods of Desolation
on their Sorh
EP, however it should be known that Woods of Desolation had not intended for that EP to sound like that. What sticks out the most to me however (asides from a decent understanding of soft/loud dynamics) is the way the bass is used on this record. It’s a little strange to hear bass so clearly on a black metal album, but once you work your way through the several layers that is showcased here, the bass becomes the backbone of the album’s structure. It’s very prominent in the mix but in the end I couldn’t really say that there were any sections which made me think ‘what the hell is that bass doing"’
The biggest gripe I had with this record is that I found it to be needlessly long in parts. There are many sections in between climaxes which seem absolutely pointless; they meander through washed out melodies and leave the album lacking cohesion. With such a template, I feel a lot more could be done compositionally – by the second half of the record I was just getting bored of the bits that weren’t markedly emotional. The first track, for example, is used well to open the album and lead into the song ‘Loss’ (perhaps the best on the album), but after a couple more tracks, the same method starts to become tiring.
What is most attractive about The Great White Emptiness
is that it plays along with sentimentality and despondency, creating an accessible and inviting black metal record at the same time. For fans of Alcest
, Wolves in the Throne Room and simply casual black metal listeners, this is a highly recommended album. However, as I’ve mentioned previously, this is not a record that I will actively and regularly listen to. It does what it does, and it does it reasonably well, but asides from the fact that I find it hard to sit through this entire album, I’m not even a fan of this style of music. I think that this record can open musical doors for some listeners, whereas for others it may just be absolutely fantastic. For some however, it represents the antithesis of black metal. Simply have a listen to find out where you belong.