Unless it’s a play on Hellhammer, Hellsaw has to be one of the most unoriginal, ‘scary’ black metal band names I think I’ve ever heard. And then to call the album Cold, well, I wasn’t expecting this be a very inspiring listen. But surprise surprise, these Austrians have delivered a really solid, enjoyable example of the genre.

After an acoustic lament (backed by tasteful strings), album opener “A Suicide Journey” reveals itself as the best Dissection song I’ve heard since Storm of the Light’s Bane – and yes, that includes the entirety of Reinkaos. Rather than dramatically switch between moments of savagery and sorrow, Hellsaw ably and seamlessly weaves both elements together. Chunky, thrashy riffs trade off with fiddly, tremolo riffing, and then bring in nimble acoustics – and all while driving onwards into the biting wind. (See, even I’m getting into the stark simplicity of calling your album Cold.) Anyway, hell of a way to start things off.

The rest of the album is a little more measured and restrained, far as classic Nordic black metal goes. That’s not a bad thing, as tracks like “Black Death,” “Cold Aeon” and “Moonrites Diabolicum” remind me of both old-school Gorgoroth and Satyricon as they alternate between blastbeats and slowed-down menace and groove.

In many tracks, Hellsaw also reveals a sophisticated handle on mood and atmosphere, without resorting to the usual synths and choral vocals. Instead, a sense of murky doom is built around wandering arpeggios (“Ache”) or recurring, shimmering tremolo lines (“Psycho Pastor”). There’s even a nod towards the whole black n’ roll thing with “I Saw Hell.” It seems a bit out of place, but it’s probably just Hellsaw stretching and trying something different. It’s a good, fun track nonetheless.

Although Cold doesn’t bring anything innovative to the genre, it’s smartly executed from start to finish. In the future, I’d like hear more speedy, epic compositions like “A Suicide Journey” – and maybe more of a tempo variance overall, as much of this sticks to the mid-paced blast and groove. I’ll certainly be checking out their previous releases as well (Cold is their fourth). Don’t overlook this one just because of the name.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 8th, 2009


  1. Commented by: ceno

    I was pleasantly surprised with this album as well. Parts of it also reminded me of Artefact.

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