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Hoarfrost - "The Cold Plains" (CD/EP)

Hoarfrost - "The Cold Plains" CD/EP cover image

"The Cold Plains" track listing:

1. Prelude to the Grave (3:41)
2. Spineless (4:58)
3. Baldr's Doom (4:34)
4. Rise ov Thor (6:30)
5. Under the Bloody Banner (6:28)
6. Splayed Before a False God (demo) (4:28)
7. Spineless (demo) (4:58)
8. Rise ov Thor (demo) (6:30)

Reviewed by on January 20, 2010

"Although the band name and the EP’s title bring to mind the early frozen black metal albums from Scandinavia, Hoarfrost actually leans slightly more towards the death metal side of the fence."

Eventually every underground metal act has to take that fateful leap and record their first demo or EP if they want any chance of breaking out of obscurity. More often than not that first recording lands somewhere between awful and sub-par, with a production that matches. Every now and again the indie bands of the world manage to put out something that shows enough promise to warrant serious interest from fans of the established metal giants. Hoarfrost has created such a promising first offering with the debut EP “The Cold Plains.”

Although the band name and the EP’s title bring to mind the early frozen black metal albums from Scandinavia, Hoarfrost actually leans slightly more towards the death metal side of the fence. Each song utilizes both a lower death growl and a ghastly black shriek, and occasionally the two get layered over top of each other. The death growls bring to mind some of the work of Behemoth, and it seems with a few year's of growth Hoarfrost’s vocalist could probably give Nergal a run for his money.

The opening track “Prelude to the Grave” starts off simply with a call-to-arms type beat and straightforward guitar work that’s been heard before. While the track never gets overly complex or technical, it still manages to give off an undeniable metal vibe that keeps interest high and will probably get more than a few heads banging. The drum work throughout the song provides a serviceable, if somewhat standardized, assault on the ears.

The second track “Spineless” is significantly more energetic and less formulaic than the opener, and it really gives all the musicians a chance to get deeper into the sound of Hoarfrost. Both the drumming and guitar work go in much more interesting and aggressive directions, taking more chances to try new things. “Baldr’s Doom” shows even more experimentation, using a repeating guitar riff that is heavy and catchy, even if it does get a little repetitive over the course of the song. The song sees a new twist on the vocal delivery as well, throwing in a tortured vocal segment that is part way between clean chanting and growling. Such a small change makes a big impact on the mood of the album, and hopefully their upcoming works will include similar sounds taken to even more abrasive level.

“Rise ov Thor” has the strongest Behemoth influence, and it goes well beyond the spelling similarities. The track uses guitars to create a clear atmosphere without ever having to resort to keyboards, and the repeated growls of “Row!” fit the music perfectly. There is a guitar solo towards the end that is a little out of place with the overall feel of the song, but it can be forgiven in the band’s exuberance to make a compelling track.

After “Under the Bloody Banner,” there is a minute of silence before the three “hidden” tracks reveal themselves. “Splayed Before a False God” is the only new contribution to the disc, as the other two songs are alternate versions of “Spineless” and “Rise ov Thor.” The hidden songs were recorded live during a practice session without the benefit of a bassist, so it should go without saying that the sound quality is atrocious. Anyone who isn’t an avid fan of the necro black metal sound can probably skip them without feeling too guilty.

Any band’s debut EP is never going to be a perfect foray into metal, as the band is still working out the kinks and trying to grasp their particular sound before evolving it into something unique. “The Cold Plains” doesn’t break that rule, but it does foretell of a band that could bring something both devastatingly brutal and melodic in the years ahead. Anyone who wants to be able to say they were fans before the band got big should make a point of seeking out “The Cold Plains.”

Highs: Great blend of black and death metal, guitar driven atmosphere.

Lows: Some of the songs are formulaic and the hidden live tracks have horrendous sound quality.

Bottom line: An underground blackened death metal debut that will strongly appeal to fans of Behemoth.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)