Album Review: THE LONG COLD DARK – THERE ARE NO ANSWERS

Something I’ve been talking about a lot lately is how impressive any longevity is these days when it comes to local bands. The Long Cold Dark of Buffalo, New York have been going strong since 2008, despite the typical lineup issues all bands face, and I think it’s important to reflect on that longevity before getting into this analysis of their forthcoming album, THERE ARE NO ANSWERS.

Over the past nearly thirteen years, I’ve listened to TLCD’s music evolve as they, at least from my perspective, have worked tirelessly to keep ’80s and ’90s heavy metal alive and well amidst their natural incorporation of newer takes on the genre. Main songwriter, vocalist and guitarist, Drew Celestino, has been wearing his heart on his sleeve at the forefront of The Long Cold Dark since the beginning. His shameless love of all things Metallica, Machine Head, and Gojira has been a looping catapult, launching each TLCD release into the fray of a metal scene often dictated by the next big breakdown. In a time when djent and modern metalcore are dominating “the charts”, TLCD are still ever determined to keep the nostalgia of their earliest influences at the core of their sound, whilst sprinkling modern metal nuances across the playing field just the same.

While I haven’t always agreed with every TLCD musical decision, I’ve always been a big fan of their 2013 release, The Inner Workings of Infinity. To me, the timing of this album was everything. My old band opened the album release show for it, a show that would ultimately take place on the same day as a close friend’s death. It turned into a traumatic night for me and I had to leave the show early, but those events also made me pay extra close attention to the music that would bring comfort to an otherwise torturous night. The Infinity songs have always stuck with me for this reason, and really opened my eyes to TLCD’s subtleties.

Enter 2021, and we’re talking about a completely different animal, however. THERE ARE NO ANSWERS is unquestionably my favorite TLCD album to date. The songs evoke within me memories of the bands that made me the music fan I am today. Across this album, I was given strong reminders of Metallica’s Death Magnetic – an album near and dear to me as I felt like one of my all-time favorite bands (Metallica) was finally getting back on fucking track. I was also intensely reminded of Gojira’s Fortitude – the album that finally made me pay attention to them (lol), and lastly, yes, I’ll say it, Alice in Chain’s Dirt – an album literally responsible for my surviving my teenage years.

At 7 songs short, THERE ARE NO ANSWERS is a journey through my own musical history, though written by a band I didn’t meet until I’d turned 24. The album opens with a title track – a song with very strong riffs and melodies, including an epic piano/clean guitar intro I’ve never heard the likes of from TLCD. From start to finish, think ’80s Metallica, only topped with ferocious harsh vocals in the higher register for the verses and bridge, alternating with soaring clean vocals in the choruses which completely caught me off guard (in the best way possible). If you’re thinking I just described Trivium, think again, because you won’t hear these riffs and vocals coming. I’ve heard a lot of Drew’s clean singing over the past decade, and his voice has come leaps and bounds in just the last 5 years since 2016’s Captive Audience. The consistency in the vocal melodies and harmonies, (yes, harmonies!) is on another level compared to past TLCD work, and Drew’s range has consequently proven to be anything but fully explored.

A similar formula continues until the third track, “Guns, Guns, Guns”, which is when we get to hear TLCD’s newly found playful side. My very first thought was “What is this? Liberal Pantera?!”, as this song grooves like Dimebag, belts like Phil, but carries a sarcasm lyrically that will make you smile no matter what side of the political spectrum you are on. This is such an exciting song, because as far as I know, this was brand-new territory for the band to waft through.

Tracks 4 and 5, “Tunnel Vision” and “Demystified”, respectively, remain heavy and in the pocket, but with a large emphasis on clean vocals. Instantly, I was transported to a time when I was mostly listening to the iconic, heavier tracks of Alice in Chains. Apart from that, I would only say that the songs are a bit more riff oriented than AIC, and with longer, heavier instrumental breaks. I also especially enjoyed the tribal-esque drumming and complimenting bass line during the verses of “Demystified”.

“Inheritance”, the 6th track, is comparatively light on lead guitar when thinking of most instrumentals of this style, and is instead a tornado of chunky mid-paced riffs. I actually prefer it when bands go in this direction for instrumentals, because it challenges the writers to hold the interest of the listener without relying on shred to do so. This is a great song to just chill out and headbang to. I found myself reliving a lot moments when I would be listening to a big-sounding song, wishing there was an instrumental version out there somewhere so I could pick apart each note played by the strings and drums. If your riffs and drums are memorable enough, you don’t need over-the-top noodling, kids.

This brings us to the closer, “No Way Home”. This track was an ideal choice to end the album. The song has, again, HUGE riffs and melodies mirroring the opening track, but at a slightly slower pace to kind of wind things down for the listener. The guitar solos are intricate but tasteful, offering solid hooks with juicy guitar harmonies. Drew’s vocals give an extra kick of emotion as the song progresses as well, providing an emotive jolt not quite present in the earlier songs. This was a uniquely special song for the band to write and record, which is audible to say the least.

Overall, THERE ARE NO ANSWERS is my favorite TLCD album because for the first time since the band’s conception, at least in my opinion, they are showcasing a general vibe of “cutting loose” and having a blast with their music. There are times when you can truly hear an artist torturing themselves with how a song is pieced together prior to making it into a studio environment. This latest TLCD album has such a natural feeling to it. The balance between business and fun is solid this time around, which I felt made for an overall better listening experience. I’m genuinely excited to catch these songs live. I was also ecstatic to hear the end results given the surprise guests performing on THERE ARE NO ANSWERS, but I’ll let TLCD spill the beans when release time comes around. No exact release date has been announced, but the guys are thinking November 2021. Here’s hoping.

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