ALBUM OF THE DAY: COBALT, EATER OF BIRDS
Cobalt are known for one thing. That thing, sadly, is not balls-out, epic black ‘n’ roll. No, it’s that frontman Phil McSorley is in the Army, brought to the attention of many by his appearance on Fox News’ (um, surprisingly metal-sympathetic) Red Eye. And I’m obviously not knocking that — writing CD reviews in my underwear while drinking beer makes me 100% less selfless than the ladies and gentlemen of our armed forces according to ten out of ten people — it’s a shame that THAT has to be what Cobalt‘s defining feature is for most, seeing as their music is so goddamn forceful and fucking HEAVY in a genre not necessarily known for either. And while Gin, their last album, was more cohesive and ultimately easier to sit through, 2007’s Eater of Birds is the band at its best: endlessly propulsive, varied but never vulnerable, and chock motherfucking full of riffs, riffs, riffs, riffs, riffs, and additional riffs. Hopefully in the end, this will be what Cobalt’s gimmick, if one could consider being awesome a gimmick.
On the whole, the album is admittedly pretty lousy. It’s well over an hour long and peppered with bits of an ambient piece (later released in full on an EP and stretching out to almost half an hour long) called “Ritual Use of Fire.” But pared down to its proper songs — a great thing about living in the iPod Era — it’s laughably unstoppable. Opener “When Serpents Return” features raspy screaming, tremolo picking, and blastbeats, but is equipped with a brute force missing from most of their frosty contemporaries. That beefiness is due in part to McSorley’s guitar work, but is ultimately because of Erik Wunder’s massive drumming. He may not play Frost- or Trym-fast, but good God, is it wonderful. Cobalt are only two guys, but they sound like ninety.
But this isn’t some everything-going-all-the-time exercise: Cobalt know when to cool it down when necessary. “Invincible Sun” ebbs and flows like post-metal, but still manages to be ferocious; “Witherer” sinews its way from doomy start through techy middle to intense finish; and closer “Eater of Birds” spends the latter half its runtime riding a brilliant riff into the series of unaccompanied, deep, ominous breaths that end the album. The record doesn’t feel overly introspective and thoughtful, though; it’s main objective is to obliterate, and it’s ultimately what it does best. The end of almost every song feels like something huge is collapsing. If the last minute of bruiser “Ulcerism” doesn’t cater to whatever makes you love metal, I don’t want to know you. In a genre known for attracting noise enthusiasts and contrarian artists on top of its silly devotees, Eater of Birds is the metal-lovers black metal album.