The underground loves Cobalt. Eats it for breakfast. I would venture to say that, at least in the US, they are possibly the most respected black metal groups out there. With a hearty cult following, these two demented minds collaborate every few years to create something that simultaneously rocks and stabs. With the primary songwriter planning a new release later this year, with new addition Charlie Fell (Lord Mantis, Missing), it seems high time for an introduction for the uninitiated. While their most recent album, Gin, is also excellent and worth a few bucks; I chose to highlight what many consider to be the masterstroke: Eater of Birds. From the opening guitar of “When Serpents Return,” one knows this isn't going to be an atmospheric walk through the woods.
The following track, “Ulcerism” is an equally thrilling dose of black thrash. The groovy guitar and jacked little changes in chord progression are right up there with Absu and Melechesh. This is music that will get you moving. Picture belly dancers in corpse paint. And the drums just crush it with aggressive approach as well as production. The heavier tracks on this album all keep a very head-bangable approach to black metal that fuses the genre with hardcore and punk. But the vocals. Are. Vile. Comparisons to the above two groups are apt in this area as well, but if you are not familiar, blackened sludge screeches aren't a forgone parallel either (likely the reason for Charlie to be a perfect fit).
But Cobalt has a “lighter” side as well. The three “Ritual Use of Fire” interludes are exclusively acoustic guitar and ambient sounds that are emotive pieces of work on their own, but also contribute to the overall flow of the record. “Witherer” and “Invincible Sun,” alternatively, are still heavy on the distortion, but the slow pace and gradual build make them stand apart from other tracks. The almost tribal waves of toms are totally hypnotic. In essence, you can think of the album more ore less in two parts. The first half is pretty straight-forward with the violence, while the second is more focused on aesthetic.
In the end, it all comes together swimmingly. With the final 10 minutes of the title track, everything comes to a head with a fitting crescendo to cap off a great listening experience. I, for one, can't wait to hear what Erik Wunder cooks up for us on Slow Forever. The community is understandably sad about the line-up change, but with Mr. “Blood, Rust, Incinerate” himself taking up the vocal duties, the anticipation is palpable. Buy Eater of Birds or Gin today for just 6.99 CAD (about $5.50) each.