Sound — 8
Disarmonia Mundi is the on/off studio band of Italian musicians Ettore Rigotti and Claudio Ravinale, presenting us with album number five, and the first in six years since 2009's "The Isolation Game."
I just want to clear the air before-hand: I've always had a soft spot for this band in particular. Their 2009 release is one of those albums I'll take to the grave, entirely for nostalgic/sentimental reasons, but I'll still give this album the critical ear.
With that out of the way Disarmonia Mundi are a melodic death metal band, pretty much as typical a band as one can get from the genre. They write very catchy, very intense modern MDM that still manages to be uncompromisingly melodic and at the same time breaches into the same speeds and the same sort of bursts of brutality found in fast-paced death metal.
"Cold Inferno" is in no way the most original sounding record, and I'm probably more attached to the band than most. What sets Disarmonia's style apart from their contemporaries is that Disarmonia write consistently good songs. Not just, for example, something like six really good songs and four bad ones, but an entire albums worth of detailed and memorable songs. Take into account "The Isolation Game" which had a problem of having way too many songs, but only a chunk of them being memorable or impressive. On "Cold Inferno," every time a track begins, you're instantly grabbed, you don't just simply "stop listening" to these songs, you just kind of sink into them and then question at the end whether they're good or not.
It's sort of like watching a captivating film, but realising you were so engrossed in it that you couldn't say whether it was actually good or bad.
That was my experience, of course, but not to say that there aren't any problems with "Cold Inferno." Lack of original concept aside, what plagues "The Isolation Game" just as much as "Cold Inferno" are the mix and production. As much as I like a wide-sided, super-loud metal mix in certain cases, the guitar tone is certainly not the best you've heard, to the point where it might get irksome. Couple the situation that it's also perhaps the loudest thing in the mix, not the most prominent, but certainly so all-encompassing that the drums barely have enough punch of their own, and you've got to kind of... get over it, in a sense. It's just a very strange mix, and somehow is weaker in quality than on the previous record.
The other problem is that this album is balls out, all the time. There is no rest, no repose in between tracks, it's all systems go non-stop, and that's when you'll probably start getting a very real headache. That said, take in each track one by one and you'll have a much more pleasant experience.
Lyrics — 7
One of the things that I reeeeeeally liked about "The Isolation Game" was that it had four contributing vocalists. All sort of doing similar things but it was many voices making a stronger whole. Thankfully, "Cold Inferno" still has Bjorn Strid of Soilwork fame as lead vocalist, and Ettore and Claudio still contribute their healthy share of cleans and harsh vocals respectively.
Again, this is "another" melodic death metal album. A lot of the vocal lines and melodies work very well, and are very well written, but at the same time, the vocalists are very... well, they "go through the motions" is perhaps an easier way of explaining it. These aren't going to be the performances that set worlds ablaze, but they're integral to the album never-the-less.
One thing I will add is that if you ever manage to catch the bonus cover of Iron Maiden's "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," do so, because not only is it an awesome take on the song but all the clean vocals are performed by none other than Christian Alvestam, and my my, is it a treat hearing him doing his thing again.
Lyrically, I have no idea what to make of most of Disarmonia Mundi's themes. This seems to be yet another case of lyrics for the sake of lyrics, and I often find it very hard to comment on them when they fail to do more than simply make the vocalists do something.
That said, the way the three main vocalists handle the rhythmic elements of these lyrical lines is actually what really matters on this album, and they do a great job.
Overall Impression — 7
As far as genres go, melodic death metal is probably one of the most inclusive, and "Cold Inferno" really is a strong album in that regard, having equal amounts intensity, melody and character to make an impression, even if it won't blow the minds of anyone looking for something more innovative.
Still, I've always thought that Disarmonia Mundi have always been the best at the genre in many respects, and honestly this album is so much more lively and engaging than similar albums of recent memory. "Cold Inferno" is really just a very strong album of very strong songs, but it doesn't aim to be anything more than that, and personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Although, I will add this: guys, don't just write an At The Gates track and slap it in there like we wouldn't notice (for reference, it's "Blessing From Below"... still a good song, however).
Songs to look out for: I'd say they're all worthy of attention, but for personal stand-outs: "Stormghost," "Oddities From the Ravishing Chasm," "Blessing From Below," "Magma Diver," "Clay of Hate," "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner."