Everything about Extreme Cold Winter’s debut EP is massive, frigid, and pitiless. Compared to what I’ve heard from the music of founder AJ van Drench’s previous death/doom band Beyond Belief, Paradise Ends Here is slower, more desolate and forbidding, and more brutally staggering in the force of its impact. The word DOOM belongs before “death” this time, and it deserves all the capital letters.
In keeping with the band’s name, the song titles and the apocalyptic lyrical themes are devoted to the extinction of heat, joy, and life. The music and the words — which can be heard clearly in the well-rounded and monstrous growls of vocalist Pim Blankenstein (Officium Triste, The 11th Hour) — conjure feelings of desperation and dread. When Blankenstein roars, “We came from far, from raging worlds to kill again the sun and moon!”, you can easily imagine that he’s talking about the band, even though he’s not.
While Blankenstein’s distinctive vocals are a vital part of the music’s forbidding aura and monolithic weight, they’re still only part of the story. AJ van Drench’s riffs are enormous — distorted, vibrating pillars of low-end sound that cast a dismal and dreary pall over your emotions. He augments those bleak, dirge-like melodies with lead-guitar motifs that are downright pestilential. They ooze illness and the stench of decay. There are moments on the EP when small glints of melancholy beauty shine through the music’s black gloom, but they are few and far between. The dominant sensation here is one of heartless devastation.
And van Drench’s other bandmates have the right stuff for this kind of music, too. Drummer Seth van de Loo (Severe Torture, Voodoo Gods, Centurian) hits so hard and produces such a deep, huge tone, that it’s like a methodical dismantling of the listener’s skeletal structure. In every song there are times when he’s striking the skins in sync with the riffs, and the resulting sound is like gargantuan, pneumatic hammer blows. Though the speed of the music is normally a lumbering trudge, the pace does pick up when these moments come, and then it’s time for compulsive headbanging. And guest bassist Michiel Dekker (The Monolith Deathcult, ex-Dead Head) does his job, too, giving added weight and punch to this slow-motion earthquake of menace and misery.
There are four songs on this EP, all in the six-minute range, plus one cacophonous closing instrumental track. It’s a good thing the EP isn’t longer — better to be left crippled than dead.
But seriously, if you’re a fan of really heavy DOOM/death, you’re going to love this. I sure did.
Paradise Ends Here will be released on November 30 by Vic Records and it’s is available for order on the label’s web store (here). Unless you’re in a fragile emotional state, you should stream our premiere of the music below.