This is the sound of three doomo-sapiens who have let a certain stylistic musical genre annex their existences; who have allowed their host bodies and minds to be possessed and corrupted by the cultural heritage that is DOOOOOOOOOOM. Yes, Coltsblood deliver one very long hour of some of the darkest and most delicious misery I have heard for years. ‘Into The Unfathomable Abyss’ is a portentous slab of depression-in-an-uplifting-sense; a magnificent earthquake of sweeping chord changes and crashing cymbals, shot through with bass player John McNulty’s (ex-Conan and ex-Black Magician) hoarse Viking roars.
The two minute opener ‘Valhalla Awaits’ is all ominous battle drums and rib-rattling ultra-bass, and stands as a fitting introduction to the melee yet to come, fading in slowly like the gradual appearance of hordes of terrifying dark warriors over the brow of a great hill, a kind of nightmare cross between ‘Zulu Dawn’ and the siege of Helm’s Deep in ‘The Two Towers’.
A huge shaking power chord opens up the second track, ‘Beneath Black Skies’, a labyrinthine descent into tortuously charred sludge the like of which I haven’t heard since Volition’s debut album. But this is different too, Coltsblood are not directly comparable to the past. This is doom with a new twist, doom that is also as strongly influenced by the bleak sound of Scandinavian metal as it is by the post-punk gloom of Neurosis and the traditional downbeat metal of Saint Vitus. This is particularly evidenced by the brilliantly nuanced guitar lines that weave and creak morbid notes of utter icy Northern pessimism over the cyclopean bass and drums.
I also hear shards of influence from post-punk like Joy Division too, a sparse and echoingly eerie guitar sound that conjures up feelings of urban claustrophobia and unending boredom with the red-brick terrace and fag-end aspect of everyday working class life. The influence of black metal is most strongly felt with third track ‘Blood’, which alternates between Mayhem-speed chaos and loping mid-tempo majesty. This is a kind of sickening fusion between black metal’s gothic styling and also a fierce and filthy crust sound that evokes certain American outfits like Ilsa, Thou and Acephalix.
When I thought it couldn’t get any heavier, Coltsblood dig in their heels and hit the listener with ‘Abyss of Aching Insanity’. This asthmatic monster continues the slow and ponderous blueprint being drawn up by the band: the yawning Grief-style chasm between the momentous changing of chords packed in by simple thumping drum fills, dirty bass rumbles and mighty far-away roars, all embellished by spidery and creeping guitar work that chills the spine and depresses the central nervous system.
‘Grievous Molestation’ kicks off with a slow-ish mid-tempo for a change, and then soon comes to the familiar grinding lurching halt before picking the pace up again. This track proceeds to flirt with frequent time changes, reinforcing the style of the band on this debut record – crusted doom that is stretched in length yet varied in pace. John sounds in fine form here, his strained and desperate vocals low in the mix, adding a veritable grainy effect to the overall murk of the sound, as if his lone battle cries were floating to our ears through the impenetrable fog of the swamp were many torsos lie hewn and hacked amidst the tree stumps and discarded spears and swords of the previous days war.
By the penultimate track, ‘Ulfeonar’, my skin is starting to get itchy and I feel like a walk to clear my head, such is the density of Coltsblood thick and mordant sound. I have to admit, this is a hard album to digest in one go, and in this context I think that’s a recommendation. I’ve sat through the whole long player a fair few times now, and it feels like I’ve been in solitary confinement, or I’ve had my entire back tattooed, such is the unending pain and misery projected by the band.
The last track, ‘Return To The Lake Of Madness’, is a brooding instrumental much like the bellicose album starter, but drawn over a full eight or nine minutes, and laced with excellent guitar work that crawls over the ponderous rhythm section like a triumphant black scorpion (with a human head) dancing on the dying forms of frost giants.
Coltsblood may just represent, along with a fair few other outfits, a certain ‘new wave’ of British Doom (NWOBD). McNulty’s former band Conan perhaps have spearheaded this sound, a sound that is informed by a wide variety of influence, drawn from many related genres such as Nordic Black Metal and Melvinite sludge, but all united by a bloody-minded commitment to achieve gravity defying heaviosity. Chris Fielding’s masterful recording of the band at SkyHammer Studio certainly ups the sludge tone and seals their almost-overbearingly dark sound in a sickening sonic fog of oppression. On ‘Into The Unfathomable Abyss’, Coltsblood set out their stall, and in the pale light of day we can see that their vision is massive and haunting; a glimpse into the gloomy underworld of death – a place we will all journey to one day.
Scribed by: Adam Stone