Now that the popularity of so-called “nu-metal” is starting to wane, with one portion of its constituency migrating toward the more underground factions of death/prog/hardcore/black metal and the other side kickin’ it with the MTV-ready emo kids, it suddenly doesn’t feel like quite as much of a sin to admit to a liking for the brooding angst of the “nu”. Staind always had a propensity for melody that made them almost as much ‘pop’ as ‘rock’, Korn still manages to unleash the unbridled fury of their early days on occasion, and Chevelle does the best “Tool as pop band” impression out there. You see, there have always been things to like, even if the compliments that come to mind for these bands are a bit backhanded.
Cold, unfortunately, has never been one of the strong ones. Despite a band that could likely hold its own against any of the rest of the nu-crew and a vocalist who manages something a bit smoother than the Stapp/Lewis/Vedder growl while still not deviating too much from that norm, Cold’s major issue has always been the songs. On 13 Ways to Bleed on Stage, the first album to snare wide-scale popular attention, Cold managed a decent single in the harsh “Just Got Wicked”, but failed to recapture the magic in that album’s other 12 songs. Year of the Spider was worse, even featuring a clumsy attempt at walking the line between satire and misogyny in “Stupid Girl”, which also unfortunately happens to be Cold’s biggest hit.
In the time since Year of the Spider, lead vocalist and primary songwriter Scooter Ward has watched his sister battle cancer, seen band members walk away from Ward’s apparently sinking ship, and in what seems to be a growing trend in the nu-community, found God. The latter development is the one that shows through most obviously in A Different Kind of Pain, where the miserable depression of the rest of the album is put aside for the sake of a little bit of uplift. There is actually a series of three straight songs with the following titles: “When Heaven’s Not Far Away”, “God’s Song”, and “When Angels Fly Away”. Admittedly, “When the world wont take you back / You know everyone’s the same / We are all a part in God’s song” is a far cry from “Wanna touch ya / Wanna take ya / Wanna shut ya / Stupid girl,” so give Ward credit for attempting something along the lines of lyrical maturation.
Even so, it’s Ward’s songcrafting skills that once again drag him down to the mediocrity that Cold has never quite been able to escape. Despite a couple of attempts at breakthroughs with songs that emulate other songs in the recent rock canon (e.g. the title track, which evokes Evanescence’s “My Immortal”), everything on A Different Kind of Pain is little more than so much midtempo sludge, sounding just like the song before it. The guitars play four chords on the verse, maybe three more on the chorus, and repeat. Ward growls a bunch of words in the one octave that his range evidently encompasses. The drums hit hard and on-beat. And it’s all over after 40 minutes, destined to be forgotten.
It’s obvious that Ward has no shortage of things to write about, and it’s refreshing to see lyrical themes that go above and beyond the whole “my parents suck, girls suck, and life sucks” paradigm. The sounds even show flashes of promise, highlighting a nifty guitar noise in opener “Back Home”, and a pleasant, lighter-than-usual shuffle rhythm in penultimate track “Tell Me Why”. The problem is, it sounds as if Ward is taking these words that mean so much to him and inserting them into a formula, ultimately resulting in something that sounds like everything that made the “nu” turn into such a joke in the first place. In the end, the music of Cold is just a little too lukewarm to make anything resembling an impact.
// Notes from the Road
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