Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Cobalt - Slow Forever
The seven year gap between Cobalt's landmark Gin and newest album Slow Forever have certainly seen some interesting times for the band. Scratch that; the first six years were pretty solid, normal years, including a tour and appearance at Maryland Deathfest 2013, but this past year... whew, it's been a doozy. Vocalist and founding member Phil McSorley quit the band last year, giving instrumental wizard Erik Wunder his blessing to continue using the moniker, before returning to the fold, announcing the recording of a new album, and then being kicked out for... well, generally being a dick. Wunder continued on, announced the title of the album as Slow Forever, and brought in Charlie Fell (ex-Lord Mantis, ex-Nachtmystium) to provide vocals. Fell is no stranger to controversy himself, having had to defend the cover and some lyrics of Lord Mantis' (pretty great) album Death Mask. I could honestly dive into further detail and opinion and soapbox grandstanding about any and all of these topics, save for the facts that 1) I really don't want to deal in drama, lest I become known as the Perez Hilton of metal, and 2) THERE'S A NEW FUCKING COBALT ALBUM OUT, AND WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THAT!!!
The first thing I noticed about Slow Forever was how long it is; twelve tracks span over 80 minutes of music (three of those twelve are my personal nemesis, the interlude track, all of which are under 2:30 in run time. And they're actually pretty good here, but I'll get to that in a minute). Most of the tracks flow together, making Slow Forever a terrific (if lengthy) full-album listen, but the highlights definitely serve playlisting well if you have a short attention span or are a productive human being who can't afford to sit still for 80 minutes to listen to an album. "Hunt the Buffalo" kicks things off well (if I'm being honest, it feels like an old western, which probably doesn't make any sense), with a lighter opening giving way to a brutal beatdown of the rest of the track. Instrumental interlude "Breath" features some fantastic acoustic passages, and leads into the pummeling bass of "Cold Breaker." On the back end of the album, "Final Will" takes the cake; moving at thrash-like speed at the beginning, it utilizes tempo changes and subtle instrumentation and in your face breakdowns to essentially stand as Slow Forever's thesis statement.
Slow Forever is like a science project. If I remember high school chemistry correctly (dubious), all experiments require both an independent and dependent variable. In this case, Wunder is the independent variable, ranging far and wide across the sonic plains to find the best riffs, fills, and melodies necessary. It really is astounding the way one person can stretch the boundaries and limitations of a genre so far, bending the tropes to his will while still exemplifying the things that make black metal great. Fell, then, is the dependent variable; his vocals are an unrelentingly caustic, malignant assault on your senses. I tend to roll my eyes whenever non-metalheads ask me why I'm listening to "such angry music," but if I were asked that while listening to a Charlie Fell project, I'd have to give it some credence. There's a palpable disdain in his sneer, a hatred for mankind lurking behind every word, dripping with acid. Fell's vocals are the anchor to which Wunder ties off his musical wanderings, and that connection is what makes Slow Forever so special.
Slow Forever was released in March, but don't confuse my ineptitude and tardiness in this review for any indictment on the album whatsoever. Gin is (rightfully) hailed as a landmark album in US black metal, and quite frankly, Slow Forever tops it in every way possible. Erik Wunder is very possibly (probably? definitely?) the most talented American metal musician working right now, and as great as Fell is as an extreme metal vocalist, I'd really love to see a Cobalt anthology album, where Wunder works with a different vocalist for each song, exploring different sounds and vocal styles. As I wait for that dream to come true, I'll have to remain incredibly satisfied and grateful for Slow Forever and the return of Cobalt. Hopefully their next album comes sooner and with all the focus on the music, and not the drama bullshit of the past year.
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