Some bands have a special quality. Maybe it’s a unique sound or look while for others it might simply be an aura. For some years I’ve been intrigued by Cold In Berlin after seeing them at Candlefest in London’s Underworld several years ago. Their music swirled around you one moment and crushed the air out of your lungs the next. Singer, Maya was undeniably a powerhouse whose stage presence was like a goth Kate Bush gone doom one minute and punk the next. Their albums backed up the live sound and there’s been a steady progression as they’ve found their way forward collecting positive music press praise along the way. New offering, “Rituals Of Surrender” marks another firm footstep in the right direction.

The immediate reaction is a bit of a shock as the band have created a new heaviness for themselves. The sludge pit opener “The Power” is tar thick as it punches and lurches around. The ethereal vocals hit and it’s instantly recognisable as Cold In Berlin. Weighty, atmospheric tones are plentiful as sonic moods shift between the mysticism of “Dark Days” and the bleakness of “Avalanche”. Bottom heavy riffs are occasionally sliced with razor sharp guitar that sounds thin and cold. Moments of groove appear On “Frantic” with its sledgehammer riff and a sense of urgency. The whole album is far darker than those before with almost a sense of a bloodletting as they flex their muscles.

The latter half of the album is completely absorbing. Circular rhythms on the haunting “Your Body My Church “ with it’s moody, echoed vocals spellbinds the listener before the claustrophobic and dramatic “Shadowman”. The seven minute closing track “Sacred Ground” drones and creates a nightmare quality. Maya’s vocals plead “Do you dream of me like I dream of you…won’t you dream of me like I worship you”. The delivery drips emotion, echoed as though down a tunnel – distant and desolate. This is a rather fitting close to what is an emotionally raw outing on the whole.

“Rituals Of Surrender” is an engaging listen. Highly emotional lyrically and aurally compelling, it shows off the band’s many strengths in style. Cold In Berlin are a unique underground force and this album is a powerful statement. Highly recommended.

(8/10 Johnny Zed)