By Jordan Mooney.
Since we saw Cold in Berlin at Whitby Goth Weekend back in 2014, it’s been a priority for us to get them on the Webzine. Sadly, it’s been difficult – between Jordan going through mental breakdowns reading through his email inbox and the group constantly working, it seems that this is the feature the forces of nature were against!
Thankfully, the arrival of a new album from the group, The Comfort of Loss and Dust has got them back on the Webzine, ready and waiting…!
So, what do we think of it? Let’s dive right into that black, shadowy pit of gloom and horror and see what we can wrestle out of it.
It must be said that Cold in Berlin’s sound has varied dramatically between their releases, and every album has in some way represented a different set of tastes, ideas and styles. The band, as a result, simply doesn’t provide the time to go stale, and an established fan can expect something different every time. Many groups would balk at the idea of constantly changing their style, but in these, the days of music being an independent and often online industry, it means that every album will be recognised and appreciated by a certain audience. If those audiences stick around, that’s an extra opportunity.
Oh yes, I appreciate Cold in Berlin’s outlook on things. It’s a nice change to groups that haven’t changed a note in thirty years, and reaps the benefits of creative – and independent – thinking. However, none of their work has quite reached the levels (or depths?) that this album has successfully reached. It’s a particularly inventive, hefty, and cataclysmic piece of work.
This album is dark, gloomy and touts more atmosphere than a Tarkovsky film. This isn’t say much for the remit of Cold in Berlin, admittedly – in fact, for them, that’s practically another day in the office. But this record is particularly special for the sheer amount of noise, drone, thunder and lightning that’s packed into that little piece of pressed plastic.
Maya‘s vocal remains the group’s strongest hook. Harsh, powerful, tough – no frills and no pretention. She perfectly suits the group in every interpretation, and, combined with copious amounts of distortion, echo and thunderous leads, she becomes an almost ghostly, pale presence – floating through deep, dark catacombs between the cracked, worn, albeit dignified pillars of the group’s guitars and bass. The entire record forms a terrifying, dark labyrinth of beasts and lost souls, screeching for vengeance and their own right of being.
There’s no gradual journey, either – you awake in the centre of it all; you have to face the demons that possess this record head on – it doesn’t try to cosy up to you, nor does it try to be gentle. These manifestations will surround you the moment you allow your senses to free themselves. The record’s first track, She Walks, is quite literally following the footsteps through this ossuary that you now have as a home; a stumbling, disorientating exploration as Maya provides that dim, pale white glow of guidance. This will take you through chambers of hedonism, witchcraft and the bells that ring us both in and out of existence.
It’s all remarkably beautiful in its own way – even those scared out of their wits will find themselves following the muted, glowing allure of the record’s tracklist. A stroke from those cold, pale hands and you’ll melt – free for them to mould and manipulate you as they see fit.
This is a far cry from the catchy hooks and lyrics of God I Love You. None of these are really meant to be sung along to – it’s a perpetual echo, almost a vague outline of what you need to understand. If you try to grab it, it’ll simply drip through your fingers. Throughout, there’s a sense only of its sheer importance – but there’s no intention of trying to present it to you on a platter.
It’s a record with sharp edges. It has claws, it has teeth, and it’s willing to rip you apart any time it pleases. Maya provides that only semblance of humanity – of tangible personification – and becomes the closest to a human hand you have to hold. She’s the hook in most of Cold in Berlin’s records, but here, she’s utterly essential. Nobody else could provide this role, and nobody else could bring so much energy – yet carry such a calming, trance-inducing quality – to droning, distorted, echoing guitars and bass.
It really does conjure all of this up for Jordan on a first listen. Since then, these environments, ideas, shapes and souls have only grown more detail with every subsequent spin. That, my friends, is the surest sign of a truly atmospheric, artistic record.
Cold in Berlin have garnered our respect in the past – now they’ve become our guidance to a world that’s not quite of our own making.
Give it a try – and see what you imagine every step of the way. If we did any kind of rating system, this would get full marks.
It almost seems a shame to break the character we’ve built so spontaneously across this review – but Maya sat down for a quick interview – without further ado…
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall! How are you today?
Maya: Good thanks! It’s the day after a fun London show at Aces & Eights (Roadkill #20). There was dancing and moshing! Unthinkable for London!
COTW: You are, of course, here to represent the London Gothic powerhouse of Cold in Berlin. How would you introduce yourselves to the uninitiated? (You can’t use ‘London Gothic Powerhouse’!)
Maya: Stoner Goth works for me at the moment. I am, however, trying to get us recognised as the initiators of a new genre… ‘Gloom’.
COTW: Cold in Berlin is now in its fifth year. Did you find it difficult to start getting your teeth into the music industry? Where do you think the catalyst of the band’s success popped up?
Maya: We gave little thought to becoming a part of a declining, desperate industry. Before 2010 we played as many live shows as we could and just enjoyed being a great live band. We never felt part of a scene as no band we liked seemed to last, so we just got on with our thing. Our first album Give Me Walls (Cargo 2010) was critically well received and we started playing in Europe in 2011. I didn’t know anyone in London cared until the 2012 album launch of And Yet when we played a sold out show at the Garage.
COTW: For Punk to pay the bills, a lot of touring is involved… Are there any gig experiences you’ve found particularly memorable?
Maya: Every trip to Europe was memorable. Rabid audience and great promoters who treat us very well!
COTW: And what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen at one of your shows? Don’t worry if the answer is particularly explicit…!
Maya: A Terminal God fucking in the toilet.
COTW: We first found your fabulous group at Whitby Goth Weekend, back in April 2014. How did you enjoy it?!
Maya: One of our best UK shows. Half the band is from Yorkshire, so it was like a (spiritual) home coming. The drive there was long and winding and the final approach through North York Moors National Park was intense. There was heavy fog and it felt like the Carpathian Mountains. The mist clung on all day in Whitby and covered the whole town in an eerie gloom. It was such a great day, the vibe was just as we anticipated.
COTW: And now we can get into the meat of the pudding! You’ve recently released your latest album, The Comfort of Loss & Dust. We’ve been blaring it out of every piece of equipment we can plug into our laptop. How do you think this sits in relation to your other releases? Do you feel it’s a big departure from your other releases?
Maya: It may sound like a departure sonically, but I would have liked all our albums to sound more like this one! When you don’t have the money for long in the studio an album can turn out very different to how you planned. With this album we had time to record with a great producer Constantin Groenert and our awesome new drummer Frank brought something new to every track. Recording an album is hard, with The Comfort of Loss & Dust I think everything fell into place and we all got something very close to the sound in our heads.
COTW: How was your experience recording this release? Is a session with Cold in Berlin typically fast, formal and efficient, or do you end up in a slow, ‘as it comes’ basis, soaked in alcohol..?
Maya: This was the first album we recorded in London, at Gun Factory Studios, so it was a different vibe. It was more relaxed and we got to go home each night. We still only had 9 live days so we had to be efficient. It was Constantin’s birthday and Halloween in the middle of the session so we had a few drug and alcohol fuelled sessions.
COTW: When you went into the studio, did you have a firm idea of everything you wanted, or did the album writhe and multiply as you dug your claws into it?
Maya: We had a few tracks demoed and lots of ideas, but you never know until you’re in the room. The studio had just set up a 70s Neve desk which brought a beautiful analogue tone to the recordings. Constantin had lots of great ideas for layering the sounds and re-amping. One track Mysterious Spells – the 7 minute centrepiece of the album – we purposefully left to record on the day. Maya recited a poem and we built the instrumentation around that.
Some songs were organically created in the studio, like the song was waiting for us to finish it.
COTW: What sort of ideas went into the album’s tracklist? Are there any that are of particularly strong personal significance?
Maya: Of course. All our albums are personal to me. This one is no different. There’s quite of lot of death on the album, writing it helped me deal with some loss and grief. It gave me strength to deal with those feelings.
COTW: What’s next for Cold in Berlin? Music videos, world tours…world domination…?
Maya: In an uncommon move we’re playing lots of small London shows in strange locations…
We also plan on doing an epic video for the track Dopamine with our long time visual collaborator LNDRIP. We’re booking as many shows in Europe and the UK as we can. It will be damnation, not domination…!
COTW: And that’s it – you’re free to go. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Any final words to your fans, family, friends…even ourselves?!
Maya: Be excellent to one another!
And while you’re here why not take a look at their back catalogue…