Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness
21st April 2017 – Candlelight/Spinefarm Records
01. Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness
02. Mortal Wound
03. The Legend Of Abhartach
04. Ever Decreasing Circles
05. The Final Winter
Coltsblood have consistently ranked in the upper echelons of especially fierce, dense sludge in an age when fierce, dense sludge is in great demand. There’s a lot of it about, and the stuff that counts is the stuff that establishes its own take on much-practised genre conventions.
Predictably, new album Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness is solid stuff from stalwart sludge miscreants. There are a lot of bases covered and a lot of sub-genre features that crop up, though spiritually the noertherners lean towards a thoughtful take on blackened sludge/ doom. “Ascending into Shimmering Darkness” opens the record, playing between subdued tremolo sections and straight-up titanic sludge-doom. There’s plenty of space reserved for dynamics on the 13-minute monster, but most notable is how their black metal influences bleed through into their more atmospheric moments; plenty of subtle moments on an otherwise thunderous outing. “Mortal Wound” is pacey and deeply sinister, and ends with a satisfyingly abrupt cutoff.
The record really shines when it slows down; towards the midpoint of the record, “The Legend Of Abhartach” largely leans towards a funeral doom sound, one of the harsher, more foreboding tracks on the record. Concluding, “The Final Winter” features some delicate guitar work which sounds a little disarming, followed by a seemingly synthier version of the bleak doom they’ve honed so well. This is a fantastic track to end on, displaying an expansion of their familiar sound and showcasing the “shimmering darkness” of the title.
There’s less of a sense that Coltsblood are re-treading old ground and more that they’re playing to their strengths. Within the comfort of their established sound, Coltsblood may come across as slightly risk-adverse, but what’s especially evident on the opening and closing tracks is how effectively creepy they sound with some creative tweaking of conventions; tremolo-picked riffs sound cadaverous when not backed up with a full battery. It’s these subtleties that reward close listens; Ascending into Shimmering Darkness is packed full of clever flourishes that elevate it, even when the majority of the record sounds disarmingly familiar. Coltsblood are also to be celebrated for not just layering another doom-approved layer on to complicate their sound – the synthy flourishes at the album’s climax sound like an organic development rather than affectation.
Coltsblood continue to deliver; no surprises. What might sound tropey and obvious elsewhere is given their particular spin and repackaged by one of the UK’s premier filth-merchants.