London’s chic gothic rock quartet, Cold in Berlin, last released music in 2019 with their acclaimed fourth album, Rituals of Surrender. Now, they have an exciting new project called The Wounds, which consists of their latest EP, The Body is the Wound, and an unnamed album to follow later in the year. Five years of inactivity might suggest writer’s block, but there’s no sign of that on the group’s new extended play.
A thudding synth bass hits your ear drums in staccato motion like something from a Chelsea Wolfe album in opener, ‘Dream One’. Singer, Maya, slithers in a mid-range mysticism like Lesley Rankine of Silverfish (remember them?). The band want to showcase the full spectrum of their post-punk and death rock influences in a heavy doom format, and they achieve this with admirable ease on this song. An ultra-distorted doom riff enters at 00:57 like the impact of a train collision. Listen beneath the surface and you’ll hear a nocturnal synth navigating through the fuzz and the unhinged vocals like an ethereal orchestra arrangement. The lyrics are the most rhythmic aspect of the music in the way they describe sequential dream experiences. Imagine if Peaches wrote a doom metal track with the synth gear of Christian Death.
Harmonised guitars moan like mournful widows as the vocals experiment with a cabaret-cum-dramatic Siouxsie Sioux coquetry in ‘Spotlight’. The bass and guitar tones are pure sludge metal, yet their owners play them like post-punks speeding up Black Sabbath songs. You can imagine Maya incanting in her long robes of the night as her brethren marvel at the beauty of the mounted fire flames around her. Might we call this ritualistic doom metal? By contrast, menacing keyboards shadow the mid-tempo guitar chords in ‘When Did You See Her Last’ as if auditioning for a black metal album of the late 1990s. It’s the strongest cut of the EP, with Maya’s elegant London accent exploring cadences beloved of Björk at her devilish best. Her spellbinding words distract you from the impressive weight of the riffs, even to the point where the meaning of them is less important than their delivery. A bass guitar digs under your skin like a colony of ants. The fuzz from the guitar amps is muffled enough to produce a static effect like hair rubbing against a rubber balloon.
Closing track, ‘Found Out’, searches for the mid-range guitar arpeggios and mulling bass notes synonymous with the sultry post-punk obsession with sex and death. If anything, the guitars are the least important instrument in the mix – they lack imagination but not efficacy. A simple two-beat drum pattern allows Maya to listen out for the echo in her voice as if the transmission of sound will return to her in the form of a new message. You can hear a definite punk vibe to the snarl of her broken high notes. Blondie and Sisters of Mercy combine in the middle-eight when your excitement levels need one more boost. Seldom do you hear a gothic band approach their heavy guitars from the perspective of post-punk experimentalists. It means that Cold in Berlin spare us the bland power chord bounce of the goth metal that dominates in mainland Europe.
Four tracks of differing textures and dark timbres is a good sign for the album later this year. Cold in Berlin’s wide appreciation for darkwave, gothic rock and doom metal is easy to envisage but hard to execute. They do it with ease on The Body is the Wound.
Release Date: 19/01/2024
Record Label: New Heavy Sounds
Standout tracks: When Did You See Her Last, Found Out
Suggested Further Listening: Black Math Horseman – Black Math Horseman (2022), Christian Death – Evil Becomes Rule (2022), Might – Abyss (2022)