When you first get into hardcore, there are always bands, that strike you harder than others and will most likely stay important to you remainder of your life. That if, if you are still into hardcore after your first two or three years. I can remember clearly, that it was year 2002, when i first hear this band called, Cold As Life from Detroit, MI. My Own Worst Enemy, was the track and it was sent to me by Pekka of Worth The Pain, a friend from Lappeenranta, as to showcase some hardcore bands, that i might be into. After getting interested and listening couple more songs, i straight away started to look for both Cold As Life’s full-lengths that were out, Born To Land Hard and The Declination Of Independence. Back then, internet wasn’t yet so easy place to buy all your records and shirts from, it actually took some time to finally find both albums. I had my luck in Spinefarm Records store (long defunct record store of a Finnish metal label, that still exists today) , that had a shelf for hardcore records on finding Declination cd and some time later in my hometown Turku, a second hand record store called Blue Cow, provided me a copy of Born To Land Hard.
Impact that Cold As Life made to my perspective of hardcore as music and lifestyle was indelible, their sound, looks and lyrics left a huge impression. Those guys were not just living a fantasy of hard men, they were the real hard men and you could see it straight away when looking at their band photos. When it came to the music, rough looking guys would of course deliver music that compares to their outlooks, intentionally or not, first i really didn’t even understand what i was hearing. Their music, it was pretty much heavier than anything i’d heard, it was rough, in a way that metal bands (of any sub-genre) can not ever be. Pure aggression, anger and the cold, cold streets of Detroit shine through their music and the tragedy of death of their original singer Rodney “Rawn Beauty” Barger‘s death and the outlet of this all in hardcore music had created such a sound, that none could ever match. Truth is that there never was no band like Cold As Life before and there never will be anyone who can match them in sheer ferocity and real impression. I am forever haunted by the fact that Cold As Life played in Finland back in 2000 and i was just few years too young, not yet to have gotten into this music called hardcore.
So why i was so impressed about Cold As Life, probably because they were among of the few first really heavy hardcore bands, that i ever heard and after finding more information about them, i just loved the realness of the music and the fact of how hard as it truly was. Cold As Life was the sounds of the streets, voice of these fucked up and fed up guys, who wanted to say whatever the fuck the had to say and they did not say it nice and polite, that makes an impression, that tends to stay with you.
As i mentioned, in the start, Cold As Life had different singer than Jeff Gunnells, who’s vocals are familiar with everyone whose heard the two full-lenghts. Original singer, Rawn Beauty, fronted slightly different sounding band though. Cold As Life called their music “destructopunk” and there were much more hardcore punk and oi! elements in their music back then. Rawn’s vocals were only featured on the first Cold As Life demo and that material is found on 1988-1993 cd compilation, that Gunnells put out on their label, CTYC Productions. It was different than what you’re probably used to, when hearing Cold As Life, but it sound really familiar still, since there are many songs , that would later make it to the full-length cds. It’s really cool to hear how same songs sounded very different with Rawn and Jeff on vocals.
(Artwork of Cold As Life “First Demo”, scanned & sent by my mate Henrik Nielsen of Bring Honour Or Walk Away)
After Rawn was killed, Jeff took over vocals and they did two more demos before they went on to record Born To Land Hard. All records this band put out, excluding Cold As Life / Ringworm – Split 7″ and BTLH/TDI double-cd re-issue, were self released by the band on CTYC Productions. Colder Than You Crew was infamous and appears on many occasions connected to Cold As Life, those dudes looked like you ain’t gonna fuck with any of them. One of the records that i always have to mention as my all time favourite hardcore record, Born To Land Hard is one of them. It’s one of the few most vicious, venomous and heaviest sounding records i know. You could say that they played heavy hardcore in a time when the style of hardcore, called beatdown wasn’t really even invented in a sense, there were a lot bands at the time doing heavy and beatdown styled stuff, but it wasn’t a thing back then, it was all just labeled under hardcore. If you listen to Little From The World off Born To Land Hard, fuck man, that verse riff is pretty much all mayhem, chugging heaviness that’s more menacing in heaviness than any of today’s “heavy crapbucket beatdown band’s heaviest riffs”. Thats not even all, Cold As Life liked to do shit heavy and that was the way it was. Born To Land Hard kicks of with legendary screaming guitars of the title track and then hits the riffs in, if that ain’t something, that makes you swing like you want to make people swallow their teeth, nothing ain’t gonna do it, or you just like fucking bad hardcore. If you ask me, pretty much all songs are so hard, so if you haven’t heard this shit, you should start to listen right now.
After BTLH, Detroit’s hardest band continued on with another record, The Declination Of Independence, their second full-length. Musically, it was very much alike to Born To Land Hard, but production was a bit cleaner, nothing like today’s standards of clean as fuck sounding hardcore records, Cold As Life always sounded pretty rough and it suited them perfectly. Declination had also older song that appeared first on the demo with Rawn and on 1988-1993 cd, called I Can’t Breath. This album is really, just like Born To Land Hard was, like more of a brutal beating than just a hardcore record. They continued their style as hard as ever and introduced a new vision of violence with songs like; Days Born Amongst Enemies, Tried & True and Who Holds The Truth, just to mention few. I have really hard time to say which one of their records is actually better, cause both are pretty much perfect as a real hardcore record can be.
I can’t really fucking address it enough, kids today seem to have no connection or caring about the history of hardcore music. Maybe they dont just care, maybe its not cool, whatever it is, that is a fact that there were hundreds of amazing bands. Some of them were million times better than any of your “hype jock favourite band”, that pretty much just wants to look and sound like Trapped Under Ice (who actually are a good band and have come up with quite original sound, that other bands started to jock, of course). Take a look, take a listen, take a fucking trip to your music’s roots, you might just find tons of amazing bands by just looking a little bit back. If you haven’t noticed, we live in the age of internerd, it ain’t that hard find little bit information.
Cold As Life had lost many members along the way and the band got separated from Gunnells on some shit already years ago, in 2007 they played some shows and an euro tour with Enzo of Dogz Of War on vocals. In future for CAL, it’s a question what will happen, if anything, since for what i believe Gunnells and rest of the band aren’t in contact at all. Jeff is also currently in prison for armed robbery, waiting to be released earliest in 2023. Gunnells played on one point in White Thrash Rob’s project Ramallah, years back. Some other guys in this band have their hands in hardcore scene still today, Mike Couls has played in many bands like; Agents Of Man, Vehement Serenade and Sworn Enemy, to mention a few. Of all them other guys, i really don’t have any clues if they have played in other bands or what they have been up to after Cold As Life went in hiatus again after that 2007 activity.
Most classic and known Cold As Life line-up, L to R: Johnny Hate (gtr), Mike “The Gook” Couls (bass), Roy Bates (drums), Jeff Gunnels (vocals) & The Big Dawg (gtr).
There is/was a documentary in making of Cold As Life, i don’t know what is the status of it since it was to be funded via Kickstarter i think, if it ever comes out it’s really interesting as the trailer here shows;
I’m going to end this post with something pretty cool, here is the whole set from 2000, when Cold As Life played in Finland, they played three shows here, in Turku, Lappeenranta and Helsinki. Here’s the Helsinki show in it’s entirety;