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This is without a doubt one of my favorite recent releases, put out by a band I had never heard of before I heard a few of their songs on the internet. They interested me enough to get the album, and I don't regret it. Cormorant combine elements of different metal genres like death, black and folk metal to create a very epic sound
The album opens with "The Scavenger's Feast", and you quickly learn what to expect from the album. Catchy, but heavy melodic riffs, harsh vocals, cleaner parts. Its a pretty decent track, but I think it just gets better and better after this. The very first riff that "Uneasy Lies The Head" throws at you at around 0:41 is absolutely killer. The song then follows the same pattern until it reaches its climax with some very good clean vocals mixed with harsh vocals. Arthur von Nagel's clean vocals in the next song, "Salt Of The Earth" are also very impressive. The song starts out in a very soothing manner, and it is reminiscent of Opeth, before it kicks into heavy gear after a couple of minutes. At around 3:54, the tempo changes again as von Nagel shouts "Rise, rise, rise!", leading to one of the best riffs on the whole album which carries the rest of the song. The next track, "Blood On The Cornfields", is another melodic masterpiece, with some great leads. The 11 minute long "Hanging Gardens" is another very good track. But if I had to pick one favorite song on Metazoa, it would be "The Emigrant's Wake". It also starts off calmly, as Arthur von Nagel mutters the lyrics in a low voice. When the riffs kick in, this song just becomes perfect. I cannot stop headbanging to the spectacular riff starting at around 3 minutes in. After a while, the song breaks down as a sad, mellow guitar plays in the background and von Nagel demonstrates how clean vocals should be done as he sings:
"Walk into the waves, as the footprints fade away
Oceans leave no graves, all our legacies decay"
The band has put a lot of work into their lyrics, and this song creates a vivid and beautiful imagery in your mind.
Just about everything on Metazoa is wonderful; the intelligent lyrics; the harsh vocals mixed with the occasional clean vocals; the sometimes melodic, always catchy and brilliant riffs. Their ideas are fresh and very well executed, and I am very interested to see where they go from this splendid debut.
There are certain stages in the development of a metal listener. Their first album, no matter how terrible the band is, their first metal album, the first time they heard their favorite band. What I am most fascinated by though, is the ability of one album to change all of that. Cormorant's debut album, Metazoa, changed the way I listen to music. I would say I've been a big fan of metal for a while, dabbling in the underground occasionally coming up with something good, but the well known black and death metal bands were what I mainly listened to. I threw in Metazoa off of the recommendation of a friend of mine around October, and I was absolutely floored. This album is responsible for my new found desire to listen to the entirety of the underground, because I obviously hadn't heard the best. I found the need to listen to every metal album under the sun, and find the diamond in the rough. About six months later I'm still tearing through metal albums left and right, but I still haven't found one half as good as Metazoa.
I'm going to be honest. I'm no musician. I can't tell you how mind bending certain parts of the album are from a musician's standpoint. But one thing I can tell you is that this album screams musicianship at it's best. The riffs are original, song structures aren't conventional, influences are so varied but still seem focused, and it all feels so unbelievably fresh. They even had one song, Hole in the Sea, completely improvised in studio. It continues to amaze me how new this album feels, when I feel like I have to swim through 80 formulaic worship bands.
Songs like Scavenger's Feast, Blood on the Cornfields and Uneasy Lies the Head certainly give the fans their dose of head-banging material, while songs like Hole in the Sea, Sky Burial and Hanging Gardens give you your slow while still extremely entertaining parts. Scavenger's Feast kicks off the album with a totally killer riff, that will set the bar high very early. Uneasy Lies the Head shows lyricist, bassist, and vocalist Arthur Von Nagel's lyrical prowess, with excellent guitar work throughout including my favorite riff on the album towards the end. I can't praise Aaron Gregory's vocal performance on Hole in the Sea enough. He gives the song this spooky atmosphere with his "drunken pirate" vocals, and once those clean vocals kick in, it's just awe inspiring how perfect the song feels. Sky Burial is one of the peaks of the album, which then moves straight into a soothing acoustic instrumental, Voices of the Mountain.
This album is what I believe all modern metal bands should strive to create. It is an album that wears its influences proudly, but still forges its seal into the material, all the while creating something truly magical. This is a life changing album, and an effort that makes you excited about a young band's future. I will be watching these guys for the rest of their careers, and if this album is any indication, they will be making some of the best metal in a long time.
Anyone who has read my interview on MetalSucks.net with Cormorant vocalist Arthur von Nagel knows that I love Cormorant. Simply put, they are my favorite new band to come up in quite a long time. Their 2007 debut EP The Last Tree was a solid piece of melodic death metal with an epic final track in ‘Ballad Of The Beast’ that hinted at the band’s future direction. On their 2009 full-length album, Metazoa, Cormorant vastly improve everything they did on their EP, while also greatly diversifying their sound to include many different influences. But unlike many bands that blatantly rip off their influences, Cormorant take these influences and apply many creative twists to them, crafting new, unique, and downright fun songs that obviously have their roots, but are also incredibly unique. Simply put, there is no band out there like Cormorant right now. Metazoa combines aspects of melodic death metal, progressive metal, NWOBHM, a little bit of black metal, and the occasional folk metal bit to forge 69 minutes of organic, original, and excellent music.
The songs such as the opener, ‘Scavengers Feast’, and ‘Blood On The Cornfields’ have some great, headbang-able riffs and addictive lead guitar parts, while the more epic songs on the album, such as the 11 minute ‘Hanging Gardens’ or the 10 minute ‘The Emigrant’s Wake’, the latter of which mixes in some great clean vocal work, have excellent, winding structures that really create a sonic landscape. But then there are others, like the unorthodox ‘Hole In The Sea’, with Giant Squid vocalist Aaron Gregory doing an odd style of raspy clean vocals, that are simply beautiful, especially at the part where von Nagel and Gregory harmonize harsh and clean vocals towards the end of the song. In addition, there are many subtleties, such as the whispered voices in ‘Scavengers Feast’, the violins in ‘Hanging Gardens’, or any of the many interesting drum fills scattered throughout the album that really add an extra dimension to each song.
Lyrically speaking, this album is way ahead of pretty much every band out there these days, with von Nagel seriously putting a lot of time and effort into writing about many subjects, some personal, some historical, and some about nature. But what really make this album excellent is its almost complete lack of any repetition whatsoever. There is only ONE repeated chorus throughout the whole album (‘Uneasy Lies The Head’), and even that song changes things up toward the end with a great clean vocal chant. In addition, the riffs don’t repeat themselves much either. They never stay around for too long, and always transition into something that fits the situation perfectly. This is what truly makes the album excellent to me – constant transition and evolution within the music, minimal repetition, a great flow of ideas, diversity, and progressiveness without masturbatory indulgence.
As for the production, Billy Anderson did a great job. There is a solid, low-end-heavy sound that gives the bass its presence, but doesn’t distract from any other part of the music. The drums sound natural and real because the “triggers” are actually recorded hits from Brennan Kunkel’s drum kit. Thus, Cormorant avoids the plague of over-triggered, over-digitized music that hurts most modern metal bands. This production really adds to the organic feel of the album.
Lastly, the artwork by Julie Dillon is top notch. I’m being perfectly honest here – the Metazoa album cover has been the background on my laptop since August, and I’ve gotten many compliments on it since then.
Simply put, this was the best album of 2009 from one of the best new bands in the past few years. This is an album that pretty much every true metal fan can appreciate. You can order it directly from Cormorant (get some of those cool shirts as well!), and I know I’m not the first to say that they ship really quickly. You can also listen to them on MySpace, Last.fm, or MetalSucks.
Have I mentioned that this is pretty much a self-release (with support from Saturnine Media)? For a DIY job, this is fantastic. Also, after reading Arthur’s analysis of a generic record contract, it is blatantly obvious why they would chose this path. That article is great, and I highly recommend reading it. With that in mind, the band receives all profits from sales of the album, so this is one of those albums to actually buy, not to steal.
(Originally written by me for The Number of The Blog - http://thenumberoftheblog.com/2010/03/03/album-reviews-cormorant-metazoa/ )
This could possibly be the best Tiberian Ass Bastard Folk album I've ever heard.
That's right, this album is so unclassifiable that it's genre (as proclaimed by singer bassist Arthur von Nagel) has a title like that. With influences ranging from all ranges of metal, and multiple influences from outside metal as well, this is simply the best metal effort that has been released this year. The album is incredible, from the soaring Black Metal screeches to the simple clean portions that create a moving atmosphere that gets you feeling the emotion Arthur packs into his lyrics that are somewhat reminiscent of Romantic-Era poetry, this has a little bit for everyone.
Scavenger's feast opens up with a nice clean part that contains one of the underlying melodies from the song. From there it breaks into somewhat melodic death riff and Arthur comes in with his first scream of the album, and one of the best ones you'll hear the entire time. Uneasy Lies the Head comes next, a song that sounds like it could have existed in the 80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene, except with the vocal style that dominated Cormorant's first release (The Last Tree). Then comes Salt of the Earth, a song that is emotional, brutal, and beautiful from start to finish.
The next song, Blood on the Cornfields, has more of a Melodic Death influence than any of its precedents, but that doesn't mean that the album suddenly becomes Children of Bodom. It still maintains that Cormorant sound and is a great song because of it. Hanging Gardens opens to very ambient guitar and switches between that and distortion throughout the song. The song is somewhat drawn out, but it wouldn't convey the same emotion without having such length. Hole in the Sea is next, a somewhat odd song that stays odd and jazzy its entire way through, even as it switches from soft parts with droning singing to heavy guitar riffs backed with Arthur's signature growls.
The Crossing is definitely the low point of the album, and is probably the most song that calls back most to The Last Tree. While the riffing is kind of cool, the song fails to deliver on the level of the rest of the album. The Emigrant's Wake is a song that starts off calming and smooth and then evolves into an intense song only to come back into some calm singing that marks the best clean singing moment on the album, barring the viking chants in Uneasy Lies the Head. After this song we see the last real song of the album, Sky Burial. The song starts off very strong and then falls into a long spoken part, that while cool is somewhat dull. Finally, Voices of the Mountain is a pretty guitar duet played completely clean by Nick and Matt that ends the album on a very nice note.
The production on the album is top notch. Billy Anderson, an acclaimed metal producer, is at the helm of this project. He gives the band a low end sound, making Arthur's cool bass lines audible without taking away from the other sounds. He helps to find a very good balance.
Overall, this is a release any fan of metal should get their hands on, lest they be branded as falses for life.
Cormorant's first full-length debut album "Metazoa" may be self-released, but that in no way compromises its quality in the slightest. In fact, I'd say that it makes it even better, given that they have only their own expectations to fufill. I'd say this is one of my favorite albums of the year to be honest. That's even against going up against other bands that have significantly greater financial backing to boot.
If you are familiar with Cormorant, you're more than likely aware with their love affair with experimenting with various genres instead of sticking to one particular genre and making it work. While its true that they could probably stick to one genre and make that work, what makes Cormorant special and different from the thousands of bands out there is their experimentation. They aren't the same old death metal band that you've heard a thousand times before. They are something truly original and groundbreaking, not seen before in the underground scenes before.
Now, onto the album itself. Metazoa is a simply remarkable achievement (That's not even counting the album cover art mind you). Musically, its easy to tell that they do like to experiment with their varied range of influences. One can pick out the progressive blackened folk fused with 70's NWOBHM influences if they listen carefully to the album's ten tracklist, spanning nearly seventy minutes in total. The album as a whole is a major treat, in that regard. No song ever sounds the same, yet you know its Cormorant, something that makes the album that much more delicious.
Vocally, Arthur really has an effective harsh tone, although I never really did care much for the cleans presented on the album (I heard that there were guest vocals on it, not sure whom though), but in a future release I'm sure he can get better at that as time goes on. For the most part, with the exception of a few small sections, the bass is audible (In my ears at least, I've always been one to specifically look for the bass tone, so that might have something to do with it), the guitar and drumming is pounding all the way throughout the album.
For specific tracks that catch my attention, I simply MUST point out "Uneasy Lies the Head" which makes use of Viking chants ("WHOOOOOOOH!") that can be described as nothing less than epic. "Salt of the Earth" where the harsh vocals kick in after it uses clean in the beginning; the clean vocals in "Hanging Gardens" (Although the cleans weren't that preferred to me in this album, I did appreciate them in this instance).
Last, but not least, is the amazing lyrical prowess of Arthur Von Nagel. Some of his imagery is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking and almost takes you into another realm. Although the average listener wouldn't think of reading the lyrics along with each song, it really does add another atmosphere to an already incredible album. Some may write his lyricism as "Hippy" but I feel he does an excellent job of making sure his intent to the listener is clear and powerful.
All in all, this makes me excited for what this band can do when they mature and grow up. Has a few blemishes that stop it from being perfect, but maybe they can fix those on the next album? Here's to hoping so.