PICK OF THE WEEK: California’s Cold Blue Mountain could hit home on wrenching ‘Old Blood’

Cold Blue MountainMost of us wouldn’t take too kindly if someone tried to invade our homes and take over our lives, erasing our past entirely. That can apply to one’s house, one’s company, or one’s homeland, and the end result could be accepting what’s not the status quo in order to get through everyday life.

I used to work for a newspaper, one that was grassroots, family owned forever, but economic woes stripped that away over time. I’ve been gone for many years, but since then they’ve been infiltrated by a parent company that has stripped away every ounce of its identity, almost to the point where I don’t recognize it anymore. It’s gone. Swallowed. That’s a minor example considering entire populations and countries have been invaded over time and forced to adhere to new rules and regulations. The Native Americans here in the United States are an example of that, as what was theirs was wrestled away, with their history and path often pushed aside or paved over by “American history.” That’s a type of subject matter that Cold Blue Mountain tackled on their cataclysmic new record “Old Blood,” as they wrote their own tale about a society being overtaken by a foreign body, forced to adapt, and who have to watch their identity be stripped away over time. The emotional turmoil can be felt in the music on these incredible five tracks, and the band kept the story general enough that, if you want to apply your own (or your ancestors’ own) tale to it, it’ll fit and prove a place to go for some understanding and catharsis.

Cold Blue Mountain coverThe Chico, Ca., band emerged a couple years ago with their debut record, a great amalgamation of post-metal, doom, and sludge, and it was impactful enough that they opened up some eyes (ours included). But this new record is some next-level stuff, the band forming into a truly special machine capable of a record this good and transcending. The musicians responsible for this epic–vocalist Brandon Squyres, guitarists Will McGahan and Sesar Sanchez, bassist Adrian Hammons, and drummer Daniel Taylor–let every ounce of themselves out, from the cascading, crushing music, to the vocals that sound like they had to be torturous and bloodletting to record. If you’re looking for a band to competently slide in with your ISIS and Neurosis records, look no further than this band that definitely should scratch that itch.

“Seed of Dissent” opens up the story with piano gently leading you in, as guitars meet up and begin to unfurl the full colors. A really cool texture is established that’s both cerebral and stimulating, but then the band starts chugging hard and busting into savagery and atmosphere. The music and the vocals drip with emotion, and the band begins plowing, bringing a dramatic end to the first chapter. “New Alliances” has drums bursting from the seams, with burly lead guitar work and piano notes drizzling behind. The track then gets calmer, cooler, with some interesting playing that comes off as … space folk? Is that a thing? It is now. That leads back to another cannon explosion, with the band devastating again, Squyres digging deep for the most guttural shouts in his system, and a finish that’s damn near proggy. “Strongest Will” is built on some cool riffs, and behind it all, the cymbals take an absolute beating at the hands of Taylor. The vocals are monstrous, as usual, and the melodies that hold the thing together are compelling and powerful. The final moments find the band trudging heavily through the mud, and the screams sounding crazed at times.

Speaking of vocals that teeter on the edge of sanity, what Squyres does on the 9:23 “Retreat” sounds overflowing with tumult and passion. He dumps every bit of himself into this song and leaves every ounce of himself out there on this cut. That’s not to slight the rest of the guys, who also empty their souls with a clean, solemn first few minutes that, combined with the vocals, sound downright mournful. There’s a lot of back and forth, with the band pounding you at times, before slipping back behind the clouds and letting the ground get soaked. The final minutes find the band mauling at a deliberate pace, and the vocals completely dominating the picture. Just a gripping song. Closer “Demise” begins calmly, and it takes its time establishing the mood of this 11:07 last section. The song blows open eventually, with the vocals leaving welts, the band hitting a sludgy tempo, and much of what you hear pouring from your headphones or speaker seeming raw and bloody. Fiery guitar leads emerge from the smoke, thick basslines ooze power, and the vocals sound like they’re trying to make sense of everything that’s happened, provide both a place to find solace about the past and express frustrations about what’s come to pass. It’s an impressive last salvo to end one hell of a weighty record.

Cold Blue Mountain remain a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world, but “Old Blood” should get them attention and adulation in no time. It’s a career-making record, one that should win them a mass of devotees who not only relish their current work but wonder what’s possible for them in the future. This album should be heard by those who can relate to the story, those who want to be crushed by their music, and those who can appreciate a budding band at the start of their creative high. We could all look back in a few years and see “Old Blood” as one of those landmark records where an important band really got going.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.coldbluemountain.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/releases/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/