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4 out of 5 skulls
October 15, 2009 |

Cormorant Metazoa

Looking at the biography for Bay Area’s Cormorant, there’s no way in Hell that I would have expected this kind of music to come from its members. Folk? Old-time country? Fucking hip hop? We can’t be talking about the same band, can we? I mean, there’s no way that these guys could have written the epic progressive, melodic death metal that I’m listening to right now.

It’s funny how things work out that way.

To say that Cormorant‘s debut album Metazoa is impressive, would be a gross understatement. The music found on this self-released disc combines everything good from the likes of Opeth, Cynic, Slough Feg and Enslaved to name but a few influences. Each song swells with progressive elements, crushing melodic death metal riffs, creative and timely drums and a vocal delivery that stretches from whispers to nearly guttural, bestial growls — an yet not a single track has so much in it that it falters. The band knows when to say enough is enough when writing their material.

Scavengers Feast
Metazoa‘s first song opens up with light guitars that build to melodic riffs, quickly followed by a tortured scream. The music is open, breathing and fresh. The vocals are raw and screamed like one would expect in a mid-tempo black metal song. Holy hell, the deep guttural growls just came in. That was a nice surprise. The layered vocals only add to the depth and swelling nature of the music in this song. Overall, this song is tremendous, exhibiting clever song writing and musicianship throughout its six and half minutes. What a hell of a way to open up an album!

Uneasy Lies the Head
“Uneasy Lies the Head” has a much more of a doom feel than the album opener, especially when the low, guttural growls come in. Melancholy and desperate, the guitars soar over steady rhythms for the first 45 seconds and then brighten up a good bit around the one minute mark. Off kilter time signatures, creative drumming and moody guitars dominate another stellar song. The lead at 2:00 is full of rock goodness. As odd as I thought the backing vocals were when I first heard them, they really compliment the main snarls perfectly and grow on me with each subsequent listen. The second lead around 3:35 shreds over some sweet groove fueled riffing. It’s amazing that a seven minute plus song can go by so quickly.

Salt of the Earth
Taking on an Opeth-like feel, “Salt of the Earth” starts off slowly with soft guitars and light, clean singing. The guitars over the first two minutes are soulful and airy. Once the vocals come in just after that two minute mark, the guitars pick up a bit in power and soar nicely, creating a nice counter point to the raw, screams. There is plenty of head banging groove throughout this song, especially as the deeper vocals come in. Raw and beautiful with a slight folksy feeling, “Salt of the Earth,” is an amazing song. The solo towards the end of the song sums it up nicely.

Blood on the Cornfields
The opening riffs to “Blood on the Cornfields” is melodic goodness in every aspect — unique, catchy, awesome. What astounds me is that despite the best efforts of the guttural growls, the music never darkens. It’s still got a bright feel and soars above the more evil sounding vocal delivery. It makes for a great dynamic throughout the album. Another thing that surprises me is how much I’m gushing about a progressive metal band. I must have hit my head on the way into the office or something this morning. My own idiosyncrasies aside, there is some great riffing and groove in this song, especially toward the 4:25 mark when the deeper vocals come in again.

Hanging Gardens
I’m not sure how I feel about the jazzy, bohemian start to this next song. I suppose it’s cool, but I’m not a big fan of the style myself. I don’t have to wait too long as thundering drums, big riffs and tortured vocals come in shortly after the one minute mark to create an air of desolation and despair. As uplifting as the previous songs may have seemed, this one is sure to drag you to your grave.

The Crossing
“The Crossing” gallops out of the gate with melodic riffing and some pile driving drum work before settling into a sweet mid-tempo groove. The guitars are catchy and memorable as the band shifts into some nice staggered time sequences. I’m still floored that this is a self-released effort. I can’t imagine these dudes being without a label for long once word of this album gets out. The layered guitars throughout the song weave in and out of one another nicely.

Hole in the Sea
Light guitar and gruff, softly sung vocals open up “Hole in the Sea.” Cormorant beef things up a bit round 1:30 with melodic, melancholy riffing and steady drums. The bass work in this song rumbles along nicely without getting in the way. The slightly whispered vocals come back again after that brief flourish of activity. Once the music amps up again, the vocals turn from the soft rasp into tortured screams that would fit nicely with some Scandinavian black metal. I love the galloping rhythm and guitars around the five minute mark. The end of the song is quite dramatic with a number of vocalists delivering the goods.

The Emigrant’s Wake
The opening to this next one reminds me of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” for some reason. There are some lightly spoken, distant vocals behind the clean instrumentation. The female choral backing vocals are a bit strange as I wasn’t really expecting them, but they seem to work alright. Big guitars and driving drums finally come in with mid-range screams around 2:30 laying to rest six feet under the first few minutes of the song. There is some impressive and creative drum work behind the soaring riffs and ferocious vocals along with some beefier riffs, as well. Cleanly sung vocals come in at the 8:30 mark and continue in conjunction with the screams until the album closes nearly two minutes later. All the while a sweet lead accompanies the layered vocals and clashing drums. Wow. What a song.

Sky Burial
“Sky Burial” starts off with some beefy riffs and cleanly sung vocals over the first 50 or so seconds before all goes quiet for some lightly spoken lyrics and soft orchestration. It’s not until just after the three minute mark that everything comes back into full force with thundering drums and driving riffs. I suppose the overall feel of this song could be translated into the actions of a Tibetan sky burial, but not sure where the vultures come in. Still, it’s a pretty well structured and well thought out song that’s quite epic in its scope. And, man that lead around 5:30 is awesome.

Voices of the Mountain
The last three minutes or so of the album is comprised of light, acoustic guitar with a folksy edge. It’s a bit of an anti-climactic end if you ask me, but whatever. Metazoa was more than enough of a great album to make up for my quibbles.

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Additional Notes:
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