Cold Sight – “A/H1N1” (2013)

Independent Release

Review by Vard Aman

I first heard about Cold Sight a few years ago when they were still living in Bryansk (they’re now in St. Petersburg) and not very far passed their “hey guys, let’s start a band” phase, thanks to Natalia Zolotova‘s online PR activity (which should hopefully show how important this is for bands). They played one or two well-played but rather bad sound quality covers (I can’t remember which ones) and one or two originals, but they were very young and only just starting out at that stage. I kept half an eye and half an ear open but didn’t pay them much more attention than that. Fast forward (just a little) to 2013 when Cold Sight released their debut album, “A/H1N1”, and then just a little more to when I got to hear it and realised that that young band I had heard from Bryansk had not just grown up, but released what is probably the best album of 2013, and there have been many good albums released in 2013. Is it possible for someone to be personally proud of a two-person team (Natalia and bassist/composer Alex Quitty) who they have never even met and don’t really even know, and up until now had only kept half an eye and half an ear on? Because I am. Perhaps it comes from having watched this band, albeit with only half an eye, come from nowhere to release an album of such outstanding quality. Perhaps it is because in doing so, Cold Sight represents the fruits of determination and dedication, and a triumph of two young and amazingly creative musical minds that overcame material obstacles to create a truly stunning work of art that represents only the beginning of their journey. Or perhaps it’s all of the above in combination with the effect of listening to the outstanding, and powerful music that they now make. Credit too must go to the band Fferyllt, especially Aleksey Godlevsky and Dmitry Eliseev who helped Cold Sight record this masterpiece. Maximum respect!

And what powerful music it is! It’s branded as Symphonic Metal, and… well, I guess it is, but there is a lot more to it than that, and a lot extra going on within it that helps to put it some distance above the rest. Big, powerful, heavy guitars mixed with an approach to vocals that I’m surprised more bands in Symphonic Metal don’t take. Natalia‘s vocals are not just the deliverer of the lyrics, nor are they meant to rise above the music in a “hey, I’m the star here” kind of way, they are a choral instrument themselves. The vocals are well layered and multi-styled, with plenty of vocal harmonies being added and in varying amounts, and to great effect. Sometimes it is subtle, bringing the lead vocals out above what sounds like a one-woman choir; and sometimes they are engulfed by each other – the sound of beautiful sirens singing together, reverberating through the fog against the pounding rhythmic waves of powerful Metal riffs. This is the equivalent of what Enya would have sounded like if she had sung in a Metal band. And sometimes the sirens go so silent and only Natalia can be heard. Aye, there is nay more beautiful a rocky shore to be wrecked upon than this!

To add to all this, there is a real assembled choir involved that adds even more layers to the sound. There are also some brutal Death growls that come in here and there, courtesy of Alex, and even some operatic male vocals as well. The music itself is diverse, and extremely well written and well arranged. The almost 11 minute long instrumental title track holds one’s attention as much as anything else on the album; and all the songs do, and do so throughout. All these combinations of factors has given Cold Sight their own signature sound, made up of a combination of approaches that is seldom attempted, and has probably never been done as well as Cold Sight have done it. And remember that all of this is from a band that is still young and have only just started out.

All the lyrics are in Russian, which will result in yet another self-inflicted bullet-in-the-foot for the “must-be-in-English-or-else-I-won’t-listen” club. The rest of the world is open to Cold Sight, and if this is what they can do now, even greater success in the future is surely no longer a question of “if”. (I’ve just seen an announcement from the band that they’ve already started working on new material. My eyes and ears are wide open now!)

Now for the title: “A/H1N1”. Some might recognize this as a type of influenza, a strain of which caused tens of millions of people to die in 1918, just after World War 1; and also the type that caused hundreds of millions of people to lose their minds for no reason as the result of a media onslaught in 2009. “Swine Flu” killed just over 14000 people globally in 2009 (according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control), as opposed to the average annual influenza death toll of between 3000 and 49000 in the US alone (according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Someone was having some fun at everyone else’s expense (although probably not the people whose job it was to invent names for government health agencies). A/H1N1 is really just the seasonal flu that comes in various strains from year to year – some strains are endemic to humans, some are endemic to pigs, and some strains both humans and pigs can get – and it was one of those strains that caused the (swine) poo to hit the sombrero (fan) in 2009. I don’t do conspiracy theories, but one really has to wonder if someone was maybe benefiting from stirring up such hype in 2009 (other than people selling face masks). Big wigs at WHO with shares in pharmaceutical companies? People who don’t like pigs who thought “here’s our chance” (as was the case in Egypt)? Or just the media? In truth, A/H5N1 is capable of producing far more dangerous strains than A/H1N1, such as the HPAI A/H5N1 strain, which is known as the Southeast Asian Bird Flu and does have the potential to be passed on to humans too… but shhhh… don’t tell anyone (unless it one day becomes a media storm, in which case then I’m going to want royalties for pointing it out here, dammit!)

Anyway, this is all relevant, as it did influence Cold Sight‘s choice in the title of the album. In Natalia‘s words to Doctor T. of Sonic Cathedral she said: “We decided to use it as the album title, because the album is about different social and political problems”; and from the band’s bio: “The central subjects of the band’s songs are escapism, human efforts to find harmony with yourself and the outside world, and the problems of modern society”.

My favourite songs off the album? All of them! Seriously! But I must give special mention to the last song, “Не Навсегда”, which is the neoclassical number on the album, and reminded me a bit of Enya‘s “Athair Ar Neamh” for it’s beautiful and powerful opening vocal melodies and beautiful vocal delivery, and the effect that they can potentially have if you dare to listen to it alone in the half-light of an overcast evening. You could always just blame the sudden case of chills and watering eyes on A/H1N1. It wouldn’t be a lie either.

Rating – 100/100

 

Tracklist

  1. Твой Страх – Твой Враг [Tvoy Strakh – Tvoy Vrag – Your Fear is Your Foe]
  2. До Конца [Do Kontsa – Until the End]
  3. A/H1N1
  4. Карантин [Karantin – Quarantine]
  5. Эпидемия [Epidemiya – Epedemic]
  6. Цена Мечты [Tsena Mechtiy – The Cost of a Dream (or The Price of a Dream)]
  7. Рекомендуем Умереть [Rekomenduem Umeret’ – Recommend to Die]
  8. Сумрак [Sumrak – Twilight]
  9. Не Навсегда [Ne Navsegda – Not Forever]

 

Line Up

  • Natalia Zolotova – Vocals
  • Sergey Kolesin – Guitars
  • Aleksey Godlevsky – Guitars (session)
  • Alex Quitty – Bass, Keyboards & Vocals
  • Alexander Yakubovich – Drums (session)

 

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