Northwind Wolves – Cold… Dark… Grim… (2018) REVIEW

Coming across a band like Northwind Wolves in the midst of chronicling the history of melodic and symphonic black metal is kind of amazing because I can fit their sound snugly into the pinned coiffures of 1998-2000 as Old Man’s Child and Galder generally pushed the sound of symphonic black metal to new, campier extremes with Dimmu Borgir. But to scribble Northwind Wolves into the book of heavy metal as a retro-symphonic black metal band is mildly offensive to the craftsmanship involved in ‘Cold… Dark… Grim’. Remastered for clarity by drummer Ben Batdorf (The Faceless, Sinstorm) beyond it’s original 2017 release, this second album from these Los Angeles based melodic black metal occultists shows great reverence for peak symphonic black metal while creating a polished, aggressive sound of their own.

Northwind Wolves are more or less a spiritual successor to the restaffing of melodic black metal band Sinstorm, as the band features shared DNA with some key members of both groups. But ‘Cold… Dark… Grim…’ outclasses anything Sinstorm have produced to date with their cheap, likely programmed drums… this band has a very real drummer who thunders under the bombast of their keyboard driven black metal with great presence. If you’re already familiar with the band from their 2013 debut ‘Astronomy’ and you’re expecting that shreddy Wintersun/Children of Bodom style of melodic black metal then you might be surprised to hear more Emperor-isms and less Finnish meloblack fiddling neo-classical guitar runs. Two bands really come to mind listening to ‘Dark… Cold… Grim…’, the first is Covenant on their first album ‘In Times Before the Light’ and the earlier Thyrfing full-lengths where they used their keyboard prowess as a weapon within the fantasy realm of viking metal.

The remastered sound is noticeably brighter when compared to the original mix on the remaster here. While fiddling with the knobs on the album doesn’t elucidate any previously obscured moments it does feel less abrasive across repeat listens. If the original mix was claustrophobic and noisy, this tempers some of those balance issues. Granted there is a certain authenticity to the pomp of the keyboards that I think transcends any sort of retro-weirdness people have for the symphonic black metal trend. This style is still just as campy and catchy as it was two decades ago and Northwind Wolves do a great job in creating an authentic variant.


Artist Northwind Wolves
Type Album
Released January 15, 2018
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In the mountain’s mist. 3.5/5.0

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