Cormorant – Dwellings (self-released, 6 December 2011)
First off, let me just say, I fucking hate Tuesdays. If I worked with that obnoxious lady from payroll or whatever in Office Space, she’d surely tell me I have a case of the Mondays every Tuesday. See, most people complain about Mondays because they don’t want to go back to work after the weekend, and they’re still a bit groggy throughout that morning. Well, I take this to a higher level, because I basically sleepwalk through Monday, go through the motions without really accomplishing much; you could say I’m virtually dead to the world for the entire day, so I’m more or less numb to how truly awful Monday really is. Then, after getting by on just vapors, I end up completely out of fuel by that night, and start out Tuesday feeling the way most people do on Monday. Anyway, that’s pretty much my story so far today.
There is one good thing I can say for Tuesdays though: that’s most often the day new music gets released. Ordinarily that would not be much of a consolation, but every once in a while, a Tuesday will roll around where there is a new release I have been looking forward to so much, that I almost forget how dreadful it is to be alive that day. Almost. And today is one of those rare days, because I’ve been counting down the days for the past few months, since I first saw the announcement from Californian blackened metal band Cormorant‘s bassist/vocalist/lyricist/spokesperson Arthur von Nagel, and now their new LP, Dwellings, is officially here.
For those out there who are already familiar with this band, and who have heard their earlier releases, you probably pre-ordered this weeks ago, and you are probably already listening to the digital copy while anxiously awaiting the CD (and all its fantastic artwork) to be delivered. If you know their past discography but you haven’t bought the new one yet, then probably you just missed seeing the news or you don’t know where to get it, so here you go: click this link.
If you’re still with me, then I assume you’ve never been exposed to Cormorant or their music before, so keep reading and we’ll go on a little trip through history.
Turning back the clock almost four years, to the end of 2007, the band’s first official offering saw the light of day, a five-song EP titled The Last Tree. I’d think of this as black metal, in the same sense as early first-wavers like Venom; the vocal delivery is pretty similar to old death metal for the most part, while sometimes slipping into a sort of reptilian-sounding snarl, like Chris Barnes is known to do on occasion. Musically, I suppose you call this blackened thrash/groove metal, resembling something like a black-tinged Slayer; quick-paced and laden with hooky riffs, but very little in the way of blastbeats and other characteristics of true black metal.
Clocking in at over nine minutes, or approximately the length of any two other songs on this EP put together, closing track “Ballad of the Beast” throws the listener quite a few curveballs, and shows some of the real potential this band has in store. Slightly more downtempo for the most part, this song includes some interesting fretless bass parts slinking throughout, as well as a soft piano interlude followed by some lovely ethereal female vocals– wordless ooohing at first, but ultimately this new voice ends up trading the last few lyrical lines with the growled lead part.
You can use the Bandcamp widget below to hear these songs or download them for free. Then, if you desire, you can check out their official merch page to order a copy on CD.
Fast-forwarding nearly two years, the debut LP Metazoa appeared in late 2009. Featuring twice as many tracks as its predecessor, this album has a running time that’s more than twice as long, and as the resultant longer average song-length would imply, this starts branching out into the somewhat more progressive structural territory that was hinted at by “Ballad” from the EP. At times, this album stays closer to the traditional black metal sound, with harsh, shrieking vocals, galloping double-kick drums, and tremoloey guitars. In other spots, though, a wider range of influences creeps in, from mellow, atmospheric breaks, to moments of melodic clean singing or anthemic singalong choruses, to the harmonic cello that fades in and out of several tracks, to the traditional, bluesy, classic-rock-inspired guitar solos. From the opener “Scavengers Feast” (when is the last time a black metal song sank its hooks into your ear and hung on for days, like the majestic guitar lead here will surely do?) through the instrumental outro “Voices of the Mountain” (psychedelic folk, anybody?), this album is a winner across the board.
Again, this Bandcamp widget will allow you to hear these songs; you can also download the album for whatever price you choose. Of course, you should really head on over to the merch page to grab yourself a CD or t-shirt, as this album’s artwork is simply stunning (see the very end of this post).
Which brings us back to today. Still Tuesday, but aren’t we all in a much better mood by now? Dwellings clocks in at just under an hour, but with only seven songs, that means the average length has increased yet again. While some parts of songs give off a definite black metal vibe, even these parts are driven by very catchy and memorable riffs. The vocals throughout most of these songs are still quite harsh, but now they often have more of the hollow, dry qualities often found in the funeral-doom genre; similarly, there are passages in several songs where the tempo slows to a sludgey crawl. In other spots the vocals drop to a very low-register whisper, like a gothic (or goth-metal) band, and again the music blends seamlessly like a chameleon with some mournful piano or strings. Of course, that’s not even mentioning the sprinkling of lovely clean singing in a few songs, and the sometimes surprisingly major-key guitar melodies, even when the backing parts and the vocals are evoking hellish images.
To span so many styles and influences; incorporating memorable hooks, melodic singing and playing, and directional shifts straight out of the classic/progressive rock songbook; while never sounding random or disjointed truly speaks volumes about the songwriting prowess this group has at its disposal. You can call it progressive black metal, or blackened progressive metal; hell, you can call it whatever the fuck you want, but in the end what you have here is some brilliant material.
Here is another Bandcamp widget, where you can stream the new album. Afterward (or beforeward, your choice) hop on over to the Bandcamp page, where you can buy the download, in conjunction with a cd (again, incredible artwork! Again, see the end of the post), t-shirt, or hoodie.
Metazoa multi-panel cover (click for full-size):
Wow, this looks great. Haven’t listened to it yet. I’m in a history class atm, but alright. Album arts are brilliant, especially the on on their debut LP. The one on Dwellings is well-drawn, but a bit child book stylish.
I’m really fond of the lyrics on their debut EP. Especially Ballad of the Beast is very cleverly played upon the story of Christ.
Very well written piece as well. I enjoyed reading it!
Ok, so musically they are what you said, Blackened Metal. Not even Blackened Death or Thrash. Just Metal, which is kind of weird. In the end I prefer the stuff they do on their EP over what they do now.
I like how you bring up stuff I’ve never even heard of, which still is awesome . Great job!
That’s sort of why I wanted to highlight all three releases, to compare them with each other, but also because they all have something to offer the listener and I figured somebody might really enjoy one- or all- of them.
Thanks for your comments, glad you liked it!
May I comment that there’s actually a type of Viking Metal like layer in their stuff. It’s folky in the dark bloody sort of way. This band is outputting some very intelligent material. Music as music was meant to be, with emotion and layers and room for interpretation and all that shit. Just took a quick skim through the new album and it sounds good. But, very much unsuitable for a quick skim through actually. This stuff requires time and all your attention.
Hello Niek, thank you for reading!
You bring up a very good point. Earlier, when I first heard the previous two releases, they really grabbed me and pulled me in. And again, when I got a copy of the new album, I first tried listening in the background while I was doing some work, but this turned out to be difficult as my attention kept being consumed by the music. So I agree, this is not really suitable for skimming.
Pingback: Withering Light / Barghest – Split (2014) | Valley of Steel
Pingback: Ketchup Day: Misery Signals, Cormorant, Incantation, Ruby the Hatchet | Valley of Steel
Pingback: Employed to Serve – Long Time Dead (2012) | Valley of Steel