Review: Coldworker

Coldworker, The Doomsayer’s Call, Relapse

Coldworker first came to my attention about four years ago. When Dan Swanö parted company with (or was kicked out of) Bloodbath in 2006, he posted a note on their website in which he cited his work with Coldworker as evidence that he had not wanted to soften Bloodbath’s music (as the other band members seemed to imply). I didn’t find out about this until 2008, mostly because I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the vicissitudes of the Swedish deathmetal scene. But I was kind of intrigued to find out about this other project to which Swanö had been devoting his producing time.

According to the interweb (and when is that ever wrong), Coldworker were originally formed by Anders Jakobson after the demise of Nasum in 2004. Their first album, The Contaminated Void, was released by Relapse in North America in 2007. Probably the best thing that can be said for it is that at least it wasn’t an attempt to revivify the corpse of Jakobson’s previous band. Although the songs were short and aggressive (the whole album came in at just under 40 minutes), they lacked Nasum’s breathtaking intensity. Nasum’s signature was a sort of whirlwind effect, switching vertiginously between riffs and tempos. Coldworker, by contrast, seemed like pretty average deathmetal. It was enjoyable if you were really devoted to the format, but it was hard to get through more than five or six songs without one’s interest beginning to flag.

In 2008, they released Rotting Paradise. By this time, they had managed to forge a much more distinct artistic identity. The songs were still short, but the production (once again undertaken by Dan Swanö) was sharper. They played at a high tempo, but didn’t fall in love with the blast beat, which is probably the greatest failing of modern deathmetal. For the blast beat to be effective, it has to be a change up from a thicker riff in a lower tempo range. Bands like Marduk and Bloodthorn never seem to get this. For the most part, Coldworker, employed the blast beat in the way the Nasum had: as a way of kicking the thrashing up to its highest level of intensity. Rotting Paradise presented a more technical approach, with some excellent dark tonalities and a level of technique that was higher overall than their previous release. On the other hand, the style was a little diffuse, and there was still an excessive reliance on a few well-tried deathmetal techniques.

On their most recent release, Coldworker have taken another step forward. The degree of improvement isn’t quite that found between their first and second discs, but they have really carved out a stylistic niche of their own and worked in some pleasing variations. The Doomsayer’s Call kicks off with a slower number This is an approach that one doesn’t find all that often with deathmetal bands, who tend to like to bludgeon the listening into submission from the get go before introducing variations later on in the count. Those looking for a reference point might think of Dismember’s Massive Killing Capacity, if a little less heavy a little more technical.

From the second track, things kick into a higher gear. One difference that is immediately obvious is the increased attention paid to the grinding aspect of these tunes. In a sense, this is the last piece of the puzzle, since most of the grind parts on the previous discs were just slightly unsatisfying. Not so here. Clearly much more attention has been given to this element of their attack and it does wonders, both in terms setting off the faster parts more effectively and in highlighting the technical bits in a better way.

There just isn’t that much that is novel in this particular area of metal, so a lot of what makes a band is whether they do something that’s interesting and whether they execute well. In both cases, Coldworker succeed brilliantly. The Doomsayer’s Call bears many listenings, and contains enough subtleties to keep the discerning listener well occupied.

Magadh

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