As much of a disappointment as Cold Years’ 2016 EP Death Chasers was, it was evident that it was through little fault of their own. At a time where heartache-afflicted punk was on the rise and honestly not far from a real peak, Ross Gordon’s grizzled Scottish shouts were really the sole defining features, and the general vibe of inexperience coloured a release frustratingly prevented from really being ready for endorsement.
But as Northern Blue shows, the growth taken place over the last two years has been worth it, as this is a much better direction for Cold Years to pursue. A lot of the punk influences of their previous releases have been stripped back for a more straightforward alt-rock style akin to gruffer approximations of their felllw countrymen Fatherson, a much more natural fit for Gordon’s voice. Of course the ripples of bands like Hot Water Music are still present in the full-throated hooks of What I Lost, but positioning Northern Blue further away from that world has done a lot of good this time around.
Really, the band that Cold Years are closest to now is The Gaslight Anthem, whether that’s in the richer, warmer instrumentation present on Seasons and Miss You To Death dressed in almost exactly the same weathered, instantly nostalgic filters, or a boost in heart and passion to levels just approaching Brian Fallon’s in the writing, particularly in the excellent buildup of Final Call from gentle string picks and introspective smolder to an explosive coda to close the EP in truly excellent fashion. There’s still the caveat of Cold Years not exactly having their own sound just yet that tempers Northern Blue ever so slightly, but this is still the best this band have ever sounded regardless.
And besides, this is the closest to that goal that Cold Years have reached to date, all through processes of learning what works for them and subsequently building upon them. Northern Blue is the next major step in realising what a great band they can actually be, by trimming themselves back sonically into a form that proves a lot more workable and comfortable, along with songwriting that’s quickly building some real poignancy. Even if they’re not quite there just yet, it’s encouraging to see Cold Years continually improving, hopefully to a point where greatness is within their grasp very soon.
For fans of: The Gaslight Anthem, Deaf Havana, The Menzingers
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Northern Blue’ by Cold Years is released on 2nd March on Homebound Records.