Since I grew up during the 00’s, COLD WORLD is a band that I saw coming to life, even though I wasn’t prepared for it in 2004 and couldn’t really appreciate it, as young as I was. The split with STRENGHT FOR A REASON was actually the album that made me discover how awesome the Wilkes-Barre band is. Since that time I started writing zines, or at least trying, and I wanted to do a COLD WORLD review, an interview or anything I could relate to this band.
I think this serie is the perfect place to do it. And I know many of you will get confused considering the records I did previously and how alive is this band. I’m saying that because some people believe if a band hadn’t split, you can cover them or consider them crucial yet, like you have to wait for it to be gone to praise them. Well, I’m gonna serve you with a band that’s alive and well and still kick the shit out many bands and surely deserve to be what I consider to be a crucial band with crucial records.
Now the band have put out a new release, on Deathwish Inc. Already a great records but still the best album they did is, for me, Dedicated To Babies Who Came Feet First. Let’s figure out why.
This records went out four years after their first EP, Ice Grillz, which already showed everyone how it’s done. Usually, with a first 7″ that well done, it’s hard to put out a better LP or even as good. And in 2008, the Wilkes-Barre team did way better than that. They decided to set a new standard in hardcore and level the game in a higher state. This records released on Deathwish Inc. litteraly defined the 2000’s sound.
It was pressed a first time in 3 different colors and repressed in white a while after. The item is already a beautiful piece, a gatefold depicting exactly what the record is about and giving a good preview of what you are about to listen. Though, I think Deathwish is helping a bit, because it’s clean and certainly not cheap. Even the graffiti design didn’t shock me. I mean it already has been seen and used in any way possible in the 90’s and the early 2000’s and I could have been indifferent to it, but it has become the hallmark of the band and avoid the cheap side of it, I even suppose it was drawn by their drummers, but not sure of that information. But it’s definitly hand drawn. The atmosphere of the record just fit this graffiti style and knowing that all the members are into Hip Hop culture doesn’t feel weird, it’s their identity and not just another bunch of guys trying to pretend they come from the street. I’ve read somewhere that the kid on the cover is Adam Rifkin from Stick Together, the guy that run the Wilkes-Barre more or less. I know there’s a CD version of the records, but I can’t find a picture and never saw it actually. So if anyone got it I’d be glad to see it.
If COLD WORLD are reknown for something, it’s mostly the mix between Rap and Hardcore. Not like DOWNSET did, not in a cheesy way that make you a bit uncomfortable when you listen to it. It’s mostly through well choose samples of infamous (or not) american Hip Hop songs. I believe it was selected by Nick Woj, their drummer who’s a DJ. He’s also the guy who write all the lyrics and maybe manage the band, but we’ll talk about this later. To comeback where we were, four songs out of fifteen are only Rap samples, and it actually add a special dimension to the record. The messages left by friend of the band (well I supposed) on those samples songs are awesome and just fit the lyrics and the attitude of the records. Sometime I listen to them more than the actual songs themselves. Dan Mills way of singing is also an important part of the Hip Hop / Hardcore crossover. But we’ll come back to this later also. And let’s not forget the WARRIOR QUEEN featuring on the song Whagman which is a total banger. I’m curious though how it did happen, but it’s really cool, and really well done too.
But outside all that, it’s a well written hardcore record. It totally takes influence of late 80’s NYHC, simple riffs and Thrash metal. Obviously, there’s 90’s here and there, LIFE OF AGONY or CROWN OF THORNS to say the least. But it’s only influences, on the good sens of it. Like they grew up with this and just said they’ll play hardcore the way they love it. Maybe there’s some ripped off riffs somewhere, or already known arrangement but there’s no cliché. And that’s what make this record a huge thing. There’s thoughts behind everything that’s done here, using old ideas to build new ones. But what I reckon is that they’re not only taking inspiration from hardcore. The songs structures, the voice, the way it sounds all together. There’s definitly an Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal twist to it, but only slightly, just to keep everything above the standard and not falling into just another Crossover Thrash band. It’s like they composed songs not to mosh on them but to bang your head on the rythm. It’s all about groove but hard and simple enough to stay in the Hardcore spectrum. It’s like punks doing funk mostly, if I can make this comparison. The Lars Ulrich drumming style is perfect and more would have been too much. It’s efficient enough and just focused on this said groove. The solos are great too. The first times I listened to them I thoughts they were misplaced but after coming back at them a couple of time, I think it’s pure genius. Like bad taste in the best way possible. There’s definitly a LEEWAY feels to it.
This is where the band excel. Taking the best from every era of Hardcore, updating it and then blending with outside references. Metal mostly but not only. Usually when a band uses too much influences, they have to measure it well not to end sounding as a hotch-potch. There, no need to worry, they just made perfect chemistry. Yet, there’s no flourish and it’s accessible, you can feel they just did their thing, they just played what they liked, and how they liked it.
I believe the way the songs sound is important too. Considering this LP went out only seven years ago, it should have sounded better, more polished. if you want something to connect with let’s take one of the most famous records of that year, HAVE HEART’s Songs To Scream At The Sun. It’s supper polished, clean and hardly focused on how to make those melodies more audible and crystal clear. It’s typically the sound of the 00’s, with the means of its time. But COLD WORLD set the things differently, they decided to stick to a dirtier sound. And it works ! The aggressive side of the songs just pop out on your face, it burst of rage and just show that you can write high quality riffs and still make it sound cheap, it’ll still rock. Produced by Billy Graziadei of BIOHAZARD, he did a great job with it I think. A better job than BIOHAZARD for sure.
Lyrically, well, it’s just no hope. Like literraly no hope. As I said earlier, Nick Woj, the drummer, wrote all the lyrics. And the lyrics of every releases of the band I assume. And this guy seems to see the world through such grim eyes. I don’t know about his past and what happened in his life but damn it’s sad and pssimistic. Honestly, it’s not my type of lyrics as I’m a naive piece of dumbhead but this time, I have to admit I liked it for one and only one good reason : he didn’t insist on how a badass and a hard tough guy he could be. He just threw what was inside his head but not with those annoying “I’m stronger than you and I’ll beat your ass even though I never got caught in a fight”. It’s personnal and looks more like a way to empty his head from the things that’s going on inside it. And it must be a mess.
And Dan Mills helps a lot to turn this personnal stuff into catchy tune. Wether or not you can relate to the lyrics, you can’t stay indifferent on how it’s sung. Again, he definitly got a flow of his own, which single-handedly make your head move, and give the band its special sound. The guy certainly knows his Hip Hop classic and how not to turn it into white boy trying to sound thug, which is what happens most of the time. Beyong that, he can also kind of sing and remind me DANZIG somehow, bringing back the vocalize in hardcore and give a lot of facet to the songs. But the voice placement is what I like the most and is very important, because this is what can make you remember those lyrics so easily, like on the tittle song.
“Still ill after all these years
Ifell at ease around my peers
But there’s a difference
Between them an me
I can’t run away from my fears
Times have changed, times are strange
But i know i’ve seen the worst
Someone must know how i feel
This is dedicated to babies
Who came feet first”
If you listen to this song, at least once, this is what you’ll remember for sure. I know Nick Woj and Alex Russin, one of the guitarists, are singing, but I can’t tell who’s doing it and when. So maybe it’s not Dan Mills vocalizing, but I’ll assume it is and if you got that information, feel free to share, because on stage Nick doesn’t have a mic and even though Alex have one he doesn’t always sing so I can’t find out.
Many people think the 00’s were the worst era of hardcore but with bands like that, I don’t know how they can say such things. This records set the level for decades when it comes to groovy hardcore and might be one of the best of its time. All the songs are really well written, with so many influence and still simple at the same time, it’s catchy but not too cliché. The idea of adding a little bit of Hip Hop to it is great, without too much spoiling the rest. The only thing that I find a bit disappointing are the lyrics, too pessimistic. But the modesty and thin-skinned feel to it is still great, not going to the tough guy dumb stuff. From the look to the sound, this record is a standard for it’s time and went a step further their influences. I can’t get enough listening to this records and after almost ten years, its still ahead of its time. So from a band that played straight forward hardcore on a killer 7″, they succeed to change their style and write down an even better LP and make it a milestone, a blueprint for future generations to be inspired by. They definitly updated the vision of groove in hardcore. Beware of the Wilkes-Barre. Boom Bye Bye.