The frozen wastes of ambient and depressive black metal are fraught with numerous one-man bedroom artists, all sharing their dark visions from a place of isolation and personal pain. Xasthur, Shining et al. have burned a blazing trail that has given a voice to the voiceless and created a niche sub-genre that speaks from a very human place, albeit one that might seem overly bleak to some. Germany’s ColdWorld, the brainchild of Georg Börner, took centre stage with 2008’s Melancholie2, a masterstroke of anguish and overwhelming dread, but The Stars Are Dead Now, the debut EP, is often left forgotten in the shadow of its successor. Released in 2005, it was a shocking wonder for the community at the time, but has been in and out of print ever since. The artwork on this re-release has been given a facelift and supposedly it has been remastered, although besides a few slight base cosmetic changes, it sounds very close to original and that’s absolutely fine, as the EP has always sounded amazing anyway.
Börner has a way of giving space and respect to each of his compositions – not content to just blast out furious black metal sans dynamics, the music is taken to a higher plane with sumptuous synths, sound effects, and melodies that reach and sometimes overtake Shining levels (no mean feat by any stretch). Each of the songs has its own personality with an overlying eerie and oppressive nature, yet they are all highly listenable and even (shock! horror!) catchy and memorable. Opener ‘This Empty Life’ sets the stage with its infinite soundscape and ambitious aural twists and turns, only to be succeeded by ‘Hate’, a track that lives up to its name with a furious riff and Börner’s trademark abrasive vocals.
‘Cancer’, once again, is aptly titled, a dirge-like slice of darkness that is black metal by any name yet transcends the genre’s boundaries. The highlight of the record is clearly ‘Suicide’ – awash in gothic drama and held fast by a heavy, meaty riff, it is strangely uplifting and majestic, a defining classic of DSBM with all the characteristic elements. The original track listing is rounded off by ‘The Old Ghost In The Well’, an ambient outro that could easily be the soundtrack to a paranormal horror film and will leave the listener unsettled. The bonus tracks are interesting, if not entirely necessary on such a perfect album. ‘Dead Stars’ is a short yet impactful number borne of a sad synth melody line, and ‘Ragnarök’ is Bathory-inspired terror held in check with more synthy melancholy.
The Stars Are Dead Now is a time capsule of the classic DSBM/ambient black metal scene and deserves to be held in the same high regard as not only the big records by ColdWorld’s peers but also Melancholie2, an album that has kudos thrown at it continuously. This is bleak stuff, sure, but it’s the uplifting quality that results from the darkness that speaks to fans of the genre and, in that respect, this little EP shouts volumes. Highly recommended.
The Stars Are Dead Now is out via Eisenwald and can be ordered here.
Words: John Morrow