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Job for a Cowboy has always left this strange impression with me. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but seeing as how that's what reviewers do, here goes.
Their '03 demo was good, but obviously, three tracks is much too short. Their EP Doom was a good listen in my opinion, but any meaning to the lyrics or melodies was lost on me. That one really seemed to focus more on sound than meaning. That's fine and all, but that kind of raw power in sound doesn't always make for the best listen. I didn't think Genesis stood out much amongst the rabble of metal that was available at its time of release. I'll go ahead and say that now. I thought the sound just didn't differ that much from the rest of the music industry and much of the record didn't stand out to me. That's why this strangely mixed impression that has been with me since the release of Genesis made me skeptical about Ruination. Eventually, I said, "whatever, let's see what it's all about."
Enter "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", the opening track of Ruination, which totally blows away my mixed-up perception of Job. They established a brutal and distinctive sound that I wished they'd kept going into the recording of Gloom. I enjoyed this record's sound more than anything else about it, because it was even better than Doom and much more distinctive than Genesis. The double-bass pedals are well-mastered in this record, always pounding in the background and providing a backdrop for the myriad of mind-shredding technical riffs and excellent solos. Jonny Davy's vocals, while as over-edited as ever, sound great with the new sound rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. This collection of instruments (yes, vocals are instruments) really come together and sound great. Specific moments where they sound exceptional would be the latter portion of "Summon the Hounds", the intro to "Regurgitated Disinformation", and the entirety of "Ruination".
The bass is important in this record. Yes, you read that correctly. There's an audible illusion of atmosphere that comes from all this instrumental action while the baseline and bass pedals do their thing at a steady pace. In "March to Global Enslavement", it almost sounds like there are a bunch of tanks rolling out because of it. It's a really clever tool that Job used and I applaud them for it. As far as actual atmosphere, the title track is about all you're going to get, and even then, much of it is through the music video.
The real issue with the band as a whole is that they refuse to stick to one style. That would be marvelous if their styles were all great, but... just look at Gloom, you'll see what I mean. It seems rather hit-or-miss since that EP's release, and until they get a good handle on their musical talent - of which they have plenty - it's going to stay hit-or-miss.
1.) "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel"
2.) "Summon the Hounds"
3.) "Constitutional Masturbation"
5.) "March to Global Enslavement"
Job for a Cowboy is one of the most controversial acts in the death metal music scene, due in no small part to the fact that JFAC started off as a deathcore band and gradually moved towards technical death metal, brining loads of metalcore scene kids with them into the extreme metal scene.
In the band's previous album, they began to move away from the deathcore genre and towards a more straightforward death metal sound, a move which they continue here, but do not complete. This album is another step in the right direction for the band, but still falls flat in many areas.
The band's deathcore roots are still noticable in many of the album's tracks, a couple of which even include the occasional breakdown. The songwriting is tired and formulaic, but worst of all, the vast majority of the songs on the album sound ridiculously dissonant and random. The songs are brutal at times, but even the most brutal of extreme metal bands have at least some sort of melody to them. The concept seems lost on JFAC.
It's not all bad, however. The album's second track, "Summon the Hounds", comes off as quite intense, throwing randomness and dissonance to the side for a moment and showing us that this band does have potential. The tracks "Lords of Chaos" and "Constitutional Masturbation" also have their moments, though they still don't qualify as good.
Job for a Cowboy has also noticeably spent more time on their lyrics and concept than on previous releases, bringing a heavily political focus to this one, not to mention much more poetic lyrics. That's refreshing, but it doesn't make up for the ho-hum music that's plastered all over the songs soundwise.
I'm the last metalhead who would ever condemn an album just for being mainstream. I will, however, condemn an abum for being mediocre, and that's exactly what this album is. It's not a steaming pile of shit like Job for a Cowboy's debut EP, but it still won't please anyone outside of the deathcore circle. The only real takeaway from this album (besides the two or three tracks mentioned above) is the fact that this band is improving, and may release something that's worth hearing in the near future. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
Job For A Cowboy. The name itself is almost unanimously considered a turd on the lawn to most metalheads. I have never truly understood the throngs and hell that follow this band like the goddamn plague. Although I don't really have a problem with Doom, being a pretty big deathcore fan myself (yes, I said it. Now stone me), I can see where people were getting pissed, as not everyone is that tolerant of tomorrow's bacon vocalizing amongst breakdown after breakdown in one's music. Genesis was admittedly a bit repetitive, so once again, the hate is understandable; after all, let's admit it: as metalheads, we naturally pick the flaws out of everything we hear and see. We're just pricks like that. Here, however, there's overall improvement on basically every single front. Let's start with the overall sound here. It's a lot more groove-oriented; less outright death metal and more like a technical Lamb of God on steroids. (Another thing that quite reminds me of Lamb of God: the vocals. More on that later.) The riffs and solos are mostly comparable to melo-death, with their complexity but overall melody. There's much more focus on rhythm, and less on simply trying to make riffs upon riffs. Job for a Cowboy still seem to forget about a general path of direction at points, but generally speaking this album is much more structured. If I remember correctly, there are...um...three songs with choruses. That may sound weak, but that's a lot compared to the single song that had a chorus on Genesis, "Martyrdom Unsealed". Also, I believe all but a couple songs have main riffs. So yes, perspectively, there is a lot more structure here. If you were turned off by the seemingly random direction JFAC's music has taken for their last two releases, you'll find refuge here. Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty - the actual instruments themselves.
First, we'll get to the most noticeable change - Jonny Davy. He probably now wields the most unique voice I have yet to hear in metal. (Except for maybe Whourkr, but their vocalist uses something that's hard-pressed to be called a "voice".) His lows: imagine, let's say George Fisher (since he's basically the epitome of a mediocre vocalist in my book). Put a slight gurgly effect on it, and tack on a tapered half-Southern, half-British accent. Right now in my review is probably the part you scratch your head saying "what the fucking hell..." Well, it's weird, but the result is good. It fits the music quite well; probably as well as it could given the instruments' current sound. Now, I don't take off points for putting effects on the vocals: as long as it sounds good, it gets a good score. Period, the end. If this was a live album, though, and Jonny's voice sounds like it does now live, this score would go down from a 90 to a 60, most definitely. The highs are what gives this album its unique identity. They're...they're actually quite hard to explain. Imagine a toddler talking in a really high voice. That's what it sounds like. Once again, it sounds stupid but in execution it works quite well with the music. I might add Jonny's "screams" are not altered in any way whatsoever; they're 100% pure. Jonny performs flawless transitions; he can switch between the two styles with the snap of a finger. But that's not to say that the vocals don't have their fails in places; take for example "Lords Of Chaos" at 1:40, when Jonny says "Built upon capital and greed", and he sounds like a frog getting squished by a moving car; or the beginning lines of "March to Global Enslavement", when Jonny sounds like he's being drowned in painkillers and booze. Regardless of these little slip-ups (which are bound to happen given the experimentation in the vocal style), the overall verdict is positive.
The guitars. This is the first thing you will notice upon the beginning of the very first song: The guitarists have finally picked up their game and challenged themselves. The guitars have the technicality to fill in for Necrophagist should Muhammed break his fingers or something. There is no bit of tension that's not exerted here. They are the main thing keeping this new momentous sound going. Jonny sings, the bass is usually nowhere important, and the drums fall into the background, but the guitars are running this show. The guitars are really varied; although they riff as fast as hell in songs like "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel" and "Psychological Immorality", the band is still capable of making slow "death metal ballads", as I call them. "Ruination" is quite melodic while not losing any essence of brutality. And even then, they still have moments that focus mainly on groove and rhythm; take for example the entire song "Summon The Hounds", my personal favorite "Constitutional Masturbation", and the later half of "Lords Of Chaos." The solos, though seldom-used, are quite well-performed, mostly focusing on groove (as all guitar solos should), like the one on the first track. However, my favorite solo on the whole album is in the back half of "March to Global Enslavement". It's extremely beautiful, but it doesn't digress from the slow, doomish tone of the song. Kudos for the solo, JFAC. And the bass...well, the bass is really hard to hear (had to amplify the bass on my speakers to hear it at all), but a quick listen reveals it's not actually doing anything important, just following wherever the rhythm guitar goes. Onto the drums. The drummer, for someone who used to chug along at "br00tal" speeds, is a god. (Please take my words with a grain of salt; I am in no way suggesting that this guy is anywhere near the men behind Meshuggah, Nile, or Behemoth's inhuman blasters.) He's quite the talented man, making quite good fills and creative beats while not sacrificing speed or accuracy, as is evidenced on the title track and "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", respectively. He also incorporates "typical atypical" moments, like adding a cymbal crash two beats into the measure in "Lords of Chaos", and other quirks that are hard to notice, but when they are, they're appreciated.
One more topic: the lyrics. Job for a Cowboy are often associated with the still-deathcore band Whitechapel. However, if there's one place they're in no way alike, it's lyrically. While Whitechapel chant on and on about literally nothing, Job for a Cowboy at least tried to make a fictional concept for their album: an extreme case of political corruption and dictatorship. It's not great, but it gives you a theme to rest your mind on. Also unlike Whitechapel, Job for a Cowboy are quite poetic with their words, instead of being blatant to the point of where it's just terribly stupid. Compare "This is exile, we are the walking scum" to "striking their iron hammers to fuck over the breathing bodies slaving to conform to a lie" and you'll see what I mean.
Overall, this is a great album. If you're a deathcore or a groove metal fan looking to make a transition to full-out death metal, this is your best option. However, this album by itself is great material; although it gets a bit redundant and boring in the back end of the album, it's still a memorable, worthwhile purchase. The essential songs to hear are "Constitutional Masturbation", "Summon the Hounds", "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", and "Regurgitated Disinformation". So yes, children: when your parents ask, you can tell them Job for a Cowboy, recipient of the most tomatoes in the metal world, have earned their balls.
Between their first full-length Genesis and its 2009 followup Ruination, Job for a Cowboy have had a few line-up changes, with Al Glassman (Goratory, Despised Icon) and Jon Rice joining on guitar and drums, respectively. Whether this had any effect on the band's songwriting process, I can't say, but I've wound up liking this album less than its predecessor, though it still stands tall above the band's debut EP Doom. It's not a matter of the music shifting in style, because the band is still verging far more on the 'death' than the 'core' elements of their earlier sound, and the riffs written here remain fairly athletic and complex.
It's simply that what is written here is less memorable, aside from a few tracks where the band flies off the handle to induce a headbanging frenzy akin to several of the Genesis pieces. For one, the album feels mildly less atmospheric. It lacks the cool atmosphere of the last, due primarily to its lack of instrumental dark ambient/industrial/horror interludes. With the exception of "Ruination", the closing title track, it's a pretty straight shooter of modern US brutality which reminds a lot of other young bands like Revocation or Odious Mortem, only with a lot more mosh stomping and a lot less of those bands' high quality riffs. The vocals here are the standard grunts and rasps of Jonny Davy that you know form the past releases, but I would actually say he has overall improved, especially on the painful delivery of the upper register snarling. The band are in pretty fine form...it's a tightly wound and well executed slab of death metal and proficiency. But the last album had a few tracks that seared themselves straight onto my brain, and this just feels like an exercise in violent neck injuries that grows slightly tired before the 40 minutes are up.
"Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", which was presented as a 'single' for this album, begins with the good intentions of a hyperactive thrasher, with some intense drumming and a battery of riffing that falls somewhere between the manic bombast of Theory in Practice and the bludgeoning deliverance of a Severed Savior or Deeds of Flesh. The solo bridge sounds quite good over the bustling, thrashy barrage of rhythms, but otherwise there is nothing here that stood out aside from the obvious competence of the musicians. And it's much the same with "Summon the Hounds", save for the slight grooved edge to its tempos, and "Constitutional Masturbation", which manifests the same mixture of blast beats, acrobatic death/thrash rhythms, pummeling chord breakdowns and low end octave chords, quite akin to something Hate Eternal might pen. There are a few catchier tracks as the album progresses, namely the huge, swaggering of "Butchering the Enlightened" or the spastic bounce and grind of "Psychological Immorality", or the more spacious, eerie environs of "Ruination", but even these do not summon a lot of confidence or add much replayability.
The mix of the album is top notch, with a thick, present bass that subsists wonderfully beneath the dual guitar punctures and the intense drumming. This guy certainly got himself a workout, but then again, it's what most expect out of a tech death metal or deathcore drummer these days. There's not much negative to say about Ruination except that the majority of the tracks fail to deliver a sequence of notes as an injection to the gray matter. It sounds sleek, and may still appeal to fans who just want a high quality mix of punching rhythms they can dance or bang heads to. Certainly you could listen to this and acknowledge it's brutality, but by now this has already done so many times that the songs really need to be stronger to stand out from the massive crowd of peers. It seems this cowboy's 'Job' has gone from a rodeo hopeful to filling the troughs and shoveling the bales of hay.
Highlights: Psychological Immorality, Ruination
It is unclear if they’ve come up with a technical name for the disorder that compels a person to keep tabs on bands he hates, but if they have, slap it on my forehead because I’ve got it bad. The chief symptom of it seems to be my unrelenting need to know what is up with the latest debacle guising under the death metal label known as Job For A Cowboy, the band that confutes country bumpkin employment pitches with aggressive music (beyond the stereotypical whiskey drinking and ass kicking attributed to Johnny Cash and other real proponents of heartland musical storytelling). But since a name change isn’t in the cards for these guys, the only remaining hope is that they’ve learned a bit from past mistakes, and it seems that they are, though at an incredibly slow rate.
“Ruination” does take a couple of steps forward from the last full length offering, and further distances itself from the putrid ridiculousness that is deathcore. The riff composition has become a bit more methodical, the vocalizations don’t come off as rambling in an endless sea of randomness, and the drums don’t spend as much time worshiping at the altar of Flo Mounier. But for the most part, this is the same story told by a slightly better narrator, and comes off as being either bland or skittish. It’s either trying to be a poor man’s Cryptopsy or a poorer man’s version of Suffocation, mixed in with a formulaic approach to songwriting that makes Cannibal Corpse sound progressive. At times it is content to be safe and ride off the coat tails of some impressive drumming and, at times, decent riffing, but it often will get confused, especially when resorting to a breakdown section and backing off the blurring flurry of double bass kicks.
There are a couple of only slightly soiled gems to speak of here, but most of these songs basically interchangeable. The album’s lead off song “Unfurling A Darkened Gospel” is a fairly decent Cannibal Corpse emulation mixed with some elements of Behemoth, apart from the bland lead guitar break and the super-modern and dry as hell drum production that detracts from the overall atmosphere. “March To Global Enslavement” has several fairly solid ideas at work, going for something of a developing epic along the lines of early Mortal Decay. Unfortunately, this band’s utter inability to put forth a decent guitar solo hampers them from truly recapturing the spirit of the early 90s brutal and technical bands, not to mention that Jonny Davy’s vocals get a little ridiculous when he tries pulling off those high end shrieks.
One might remark that it is unfair to kick a band while their down, but these guys just never seem to be able to pick themselves up off the floor and dust themselves off, so how else can one make an honest assessment of this. It fits in perfectly with the current mainstream attitude towards metal, which is to take some of the good elements of the bands that originally offended mainstream sensibilities, and water it down to the point of becoming the light beer of what we know and love. If Davy stuck to the guttural death grunts and if one of these guitarists learned how to properly cut loose during a lead break, this could be par for the course, but there would still be throngs of better bands out there to follow.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on March 7, 2009.
Job For a Cowboy have always been hailed by scene/emo kids and detested by most metalheads as the founders of deathcore and the breakdown trend in the EP “Doom”, but their recent release “Ruination” was rumored to buck this trend. And it sure does – JFAC has transformed from a mildly catchy deathcore band to a solid, straight-up death metal band despite mass criticism from plently anti-deathcore proponents.
The first thing I noticed when I was considering the songwriting on “Ruination” was the general lack of breakdowns. While there may be more breakdowns in “Ruination” than in a standard Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse album, it’s not by a large number anymore – and, most noticeably, the band has FINALLY gotten away from the shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, obnoxious Whitechapel/Oceano-style breakdowns where they just randomly go into a breakdown after a riff or, even worse, after another breakdown. The breakdowns on this album are used effectively, not to simply generate pits, and as a result the breakdowns sound a hell of a lot heavier when they’re spread out instead of just jammed in, one after the other. Similarly, JFAC has discovered how to effectively use pauses in their music. In my review of Scar Symmetry’s “Dark Matter Dimensions”, I criticized the band for the overuse of pauses in their music because it created sloppiness in the same way that the overuse of breakdowns creates monotony. Job has managed to avoid the overuse of these pauses, and when they do use said pauses, it’s undeniably effective and heavy (listen to “Summon the Hounds” or “To Detonate and Exterminate”). In addition, the band has changed their breakdown/chorus/whatever song structures to a more death metal style, without any distinct choruses or versus. This creates an intentionally frantic feeling, like the band is about to fall apart but pulls it together at the last second.
The guitar work is noticeably different from “Genesis” and “Doom”, probably because the guitarists tend to avoid the low C/D strings (Oh yeah, they finally tuned to something reasonable for their music – No more Drop A#/Bb) unlike in the past. While the riffs do seem pretty similar to each other, as most are based on the harmonic minor and chromatic scales, they still sound good. The riffs are technical, but not impossible, and there’s a lot of emphasis on quick bursts of technicality in songs like “Regurgitated Disinformation” and “Psychological Immorality”. There are plenty of short tech riffs that really get the listener pumped. Fortunately, the technicality doesn’t detract from the heaviness, and gives the heaviness itself a new, more refined sound. Unfortunately, there is a definite lack of solos for a death metal band (excluding “Unfurling a Darkened Gospel” and the disappointing solo in "March to Global Enslavement"), but it doesn’t hurt the guitarwork too much because the riffs have far more presence than they have had on the two previous releases. Surprisingly, there is a subtle – and not so subtle, in the case of the title track – black metal influence, as strummed distorted chords and rapid tremolo picking riffs slide under the main guitar work.
Jonny Davy is an extremely versatile vocalist, and although high screams are not that commonly used in death metal, they really work in the case of “Ruination”. Davy’s highs and mid-range screams are his most powerful, so he uses them the most, and to great effect. Another point which will convince skeptics of the new potential of JFAC is the decision to remove the pig squeal from Davy’s vocal arsenal. The lyrics are extraordinarily political (or at least extremely anti-corporation) – “money”, “government”, and “corruption” are often repeated. The lyrics cycle around in an odd pattern; Davy repeats every set of lyrics twice despite changes in the actual music.
The drumming style employs plenty of blast beasts and double bass, in an expert execution – I never really noticed the potential of JFAC’s drummer before this album. Of course, there’s a lot of the standard death metal fills, but there are also a lot of creative tom and snare patterns that actually show that Job’s drummer has a keen sense of rhythm and time.
The bass is somewhat audible, unlike many bands. JFAC uses that unfortunately cliché tactic of putting the bass in when the guitar isn’t playing (listen to "To Detonate and Exterminate"), but at least you can hear it sometimes, and when you can it sounds pretty good. There is a clear improvement from "Genesis" and "Doom".
The production and mixing on this album are near flawless; the album sounds tight and powerful without becoming over-processed and commercialized death metal. The only issue I have is in the mixing of the toms and the bass drum. In some instances (like near the end of “Regurgitated Disinformation”) they sound almost identical and it’s really hard to tell them apart. This continues the frantic, falling-apart feeling established by the songwriting, but I would like to be able to know which drum he’s playing.
Ok, from what I’ve written above, the album seems solid, but not worthy of a 90. The real reason this album is getting a 90 is because it is one of, if not the most, fun and enjoyable records of the year. “Ruination” is just a really fucking fun album, one you can really bang your head to without having to shake it afterwards. The technicality makes it an album that tech-nuts will appreciate, but it doesn’t even approach Necrophagist-style technicality that requires one to do nothing but sit and listen to the music in order to appreciate it. It’s catchy, but not poppy, and keeps the listener’s attention. The main influence on Job for this album seems to be Decapitated (the intro to “Constitutional Masturbation” could be a rehash of “Day 69”), and they certainly could have chosen a worse band to imitate. Is “Ruination” generic death metal? Somewhat. Is it unremarkable in terms of songwriting and musicianship, despite clear talent? Somewhat. But despite this, the band works together fantastically to create some of the best American death metal of 2009.
Recommended songs: “Unfurling a Darkened Gospel”, “Regurgitated Disinformation”, and “Psychological Immorality”.
Job For A Cowboy just doesn't know what they need to do. Ruination is just like Genesis, a slab of generic and airy semi-technical Death Metal that oozes along with no direction. It's death metal for death metal's sake, and JFAC aren't even doing a good job. It's cleanly-produced, yes, but it's also uninspired and devoid of any kind of innovation at all.
This album was made to sell, not to be good. From the very beginning JFAC have exploited social networking to garner massive amounts of attention, and having slightly above-par deathcore kept them from being shot down by everyone. Suddenly, the band realizes that their fans are retards and they want to be death metal... or is this epiphany a facade? Despite touting themselves as a death metal band, Job For A Cowboy have really done a piss-poor job, and they're an insult to real hardworking metal bands everywhere.
The opening track sounds like Death Metal in that the necessary elements are in place, but it still feels like Metalcore. In less than a minute, you can actually understand that this isn't real death metal and it should be killed with fire as soon as possible. The solo is played flawlessly, but it's still machinated. Really, that's JFAC's "death metal" in a nutshell - clean and well-produced music that may as well have been played by a finely-tuned robot. No soul, no passion, just a vague attempt to commercialize heavy metal... and to the MTV crowd, no less. Play a certain riff here, do this vocal style, then this vocal style, now slow down... no wait, speed up. BE BRUTAL. This album is to death metal what processed American Cheese is to fine imported European cheese. Hershey chocolate to Lindt chocolate. Mass-produced bullshit for people that don't know what real Metal is. The whole album is practically one long track; the entire thing blends together and it's very forgettable. The only possible exception is that the last track is very slow, and has the barest hint of something more than the rest of the album. Overall -- nothing new here folks, nothing to see at all... move along and find something better.
The band really should have stuck with the "Doom" EP that they put out. At least there was something to be heard there, even if most metalheads hate it. It had energy and musicianship that was actually interesting, instead of a bland forty-minute snoozefest. This is even a step down from their last album Genesis, which is really sad. Will Job For A Cowboy get the hint from the Metal community and stop raping Death Metal as a genre? Probably not, but we can hope.
Job for a Cowboy, famous for having the worst band name in metal, have decided to move away from their deathcore roots with their newest release, "Ruination", and while it's miles ahead of anything they've done in the past, it's still a rather dull album with a few enjoyable sections. Is it worth your time and money? Let's find out.
The first track "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel" opens furiously with a storm of blast beats and a fast riff that shows JFAC's tech death influence. While I usually find tech death boring, at least it's better than deathcore. Then, we get the vocals. First: They're not good at all. In this track, Johnny Davy sticks mostly to those high-pitched screams that are like nails on a chalkboard, and when he goes low, he reminds me of a weaker version of Peter from Vader. Not only are the vocals bad, but they're everywhere! I think the only time in the whole song that grants a relief from the ear-grating wails is the guitar solo, which would be noteworthy, but the drums underneath it are incredibly distracting. The whole song is quite the clusterfuck, lacking any trace of memorability in the riffs or vocals. The mix makes the song more chaotic than it should be, with the rhythm guitar sounding like a sludgy mess. Not a good omen for the rest of the album.
Fortunately, it would seem as if my initial thoughts of were a bit of an overreaction. True, the vocals remain horrendous throughout the entire album, but "Ruination" isn't the sonic abomination that I'd thought it would be. There's some great riffage on the first part of "Regurgitated Disinformation", and "Constitutional Masturbation" has some oddly-catchy vocal parts ("I masturbate!"), and even the way-too-long-for-it's-own-good "March to Global Enslavement" has a great solo, though simple. And there is the irony of "Ruination": Despite their re-invention as a tech-death band, JFAC is best when they're not technical, and are playing songs that you can wrap your brain around, instead of going "OMIGAWDTHESEGUYSCANPLAY!"
Sadly, for every awesome riff, there are many, many more dull ones that show up in abundance towards the last half of the album. A big part of JFAC's weaknesses lie within their genre itself. It's tough to make technical death metal interesting over the course of a full-length, and Job for a Cowboy just can't pull it off. By the seventh or so track, you'll just be checking your watch, wondering how much time is left with the album. At least "Ruination" is only 40 minutes instead of an hour or so.
Furthermore, the whole album has a monotonous feel that is only broken up by the outro track, which also happens to be the title track. The guitar tone is very different than the rest of the album, and, as odd as it feels to type this, it actually brings to mind black metal. This interesting departure from the rest of "Ruination" serves as a great end to the story of the album, which is some sort of concept about the Anti-Christ, or something like that. The atmosphere it creates is that of the end times, which is quite refreshing after hearing the chaos of the rest of the album. It should be noted that the chaos of the previous tracks fails to achieve the atmosphere of actual chaos, and really just comes off poorly-written song structure.
Unfortunately, as a whole, "Ruination" fails to attain an "above-average" grade, largely due to the vocals. I mentioned them earlier, and they bear repeating. Johnny Davy should focus on his strengths (the lows) and stop trying to scream in a high-pitch. Such caterwauling only brings to mind the deathcore that Job for a Cowboy seem to be trying to get away from. The musicians Davy's playing with might be technically gifted, but they lack songwriting talent, falling into the trap of attempting technicality for its own sake. "Ruination" is far from being the worst album of the year, but it's nowhere near the best, either.
As a side note, does anyone else think that Job for a Cowboy are trying way too hard with their song titles? I mean, "Constitutional Masturbation", "Regurgitated Disinformation", "Psychological Immorality"? Someone needs to put down the thesaurus and work on their songwriting skills.
"Constitutional Masturbation", "Regurgitated Disinformation", "Ruination"
NOTE: This review was originally written for http://lavidastrangiato.blogspot.com/
Review Originally published at http://www.teethofthedivine.com by Erik Thomas
Arguably surpassing The Black Dahlia Murder as Metal Blade’s media darlings, JFAC have at least weathered the hype and the hate to change styles from their reee filled deathcore to morph into a more respectable death metal outfit, and retain their fan base as 2007s unit moving Genesis proved. However, in these eyes (or ears) JFAC , despite their best effort are still a rather forgetful death metal outfit when it’s all said and done.
There is nothing wrong with Ruination at all, except it’s completely indistinguishable from Genesis. Its full of nods to real death metal like Vader, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and such, its chock full of excellent musicianship, blasting complexity, heaving death metal prose, dual vocals and rigid Jason Seucoff (Trivium, All That Remains, etc) production, but for the life of me, I can’t recall a single moment from the album when its stopped spinning.
Slower moments like “March to Global Enslavement”, “Lords of Chaos” and impressive closing title track have a bit more staying power than pure blasters like opener “Unfurling a Darkened Gospel”, “Summon the Hounds”, “Constitutional Masturbation”, “Psychological Immorality” and “To Detonate and Exterminate” which is a majority of the album and are barely distinguishable from each other. It’s like they are still trying a little too hard, even the song titles seem a little forced. It’s like the band is so tightly wound and determined to shed their deathcore past that they unleash everything they have, like a kid having sex for the first few times. Instead, I wish JFAC would just relax, play and have fun (kinda like The Black Dahlia Murder did on Nocturnal - they were just as forced on Miasma), as they have ample chops and skill.
Still, Ruination is not a bad album and it is certainly a solid death record and I imagine it will move some units and be one of Metal Blade’s bigger 2009 which is a shame as releases by Lay Down Rotten and As You Drown are far better records, just without the hype of fanbase.
Job for a Cowboy's reception within the death metal scene since their last album, Genesis, is somewhat akin to Josef Mengele showing up at your local Hannukkah festivities wearing a skullcap; the overwhelming opinion is that not only are they representative of everything wrong with the world, but that their attempts to blend in only make it worse, resulting in an overriding consensus they if they so much as touch the latkes, they'll be beaten into the fucking ground.
This is a shame since Job For A Cowboy haven't really done anything wrong; they made one release that could only tentatively be labelled "deathcore" (I'm still not convinced), became internet sensations overnight, largely thanks to the fandom of fucking idiots, and despite extensive efforts to change their ways, they've never been able to break free from the perception that they're still in the fringes-and-skinny-jeans crowd, despite the fact that their music did a long time ago (Depressingly, The Faceless, another awesome death metal band, have suffered the same fate). I have no doubt that their fandom of, and desire to be, "pure" death metal is genuine, but their last album was not as far away from the anathemic Doom as it needed to be to shake the deriders. In fact, I suspect that they will never achieve acceptance from the death metal scene as a whole, purely because they represent a well-known figurehead onto which everything bad about deathcore can be projected, which is a shame, because unless Necrophagist and Decrepit Birth can pull something truly astonishing out of the bag, Job for a Cowboy's newest album, Ruination, is the best technical death metal album of the year.
Before the review begins, let me qualify that Job For A Cowboy (they reeeeeeallllllllyyyyy need a new name) are now technical death metal, because more than a few people are going to have a problem with this. Put on a good baseline for modern death metal, say, Homage for Satan by Deicide or Iesous by Bloodbath. Now play Unfurling a Darkened Gospel, the first track off of Ruination. The Job For A Cowboy album may not be as technical as those at all points, but the technicality is much more integrated into their new sound that it is in "traditional" death metal, while being no more chug-happy than Decapitated or Monstrosity.
It starts with a quick drum fill before the album proper erupts. In a day and age when technical death metal is jazzy and melodic - thanks a lot, Cynic - the ferocity and intensity of JFAC 3.0 really catches you off guard. Jon Rice's drumming is certainly dexterous - his fills might not be imaginative, but they certainly do the job, and his blasts are at times so fast they travel through time and scare your grandparents. John Davy's vocals have always drawn some derision, especially for the presence of "pig squeals", but here his performance is exemplary of death metal vocals at their finest - his lows have just enough distortion to always sound guttural and ferocious, and his highs are going to piss off self-styled "true" death metal fans, but they provide variety and contrast, and during the busier moments, they stop the vocals getting lost in the mix. THERE ARE NO PIG SQUEALS HERE PEOPLE.
The guitar duo of old hand Bobby Thompson and ex-Despised Icon guitarist Al Glassman provide a fantastic focal point for the music, creating elaborate and atmospheric riffs and consistantly enjoyable shredding. They constantly try new things with expert precision, and never really fail to pull anything off. The songwriting keeps up with the technical aspect, reigning in the guitar wankery with admirable authority and keeping the music focused as opposed to the meandering feel of a lot of tech death. The bass...well, you can't hear it, but I have no doubt that it's just lovely.
The album is also very well structured - the tracks are all good enough that you won't really want to skip any tracks in order to get to the meat and potatoes of the album - and one thing to say about Job For a Cowboy is that they achieve an amosphere with startling efficiency. The feeling of impending doom is constant throughout, amplified by the superb slower sections which radiate ominous ambience.
Overall, Job For a Cowboy remains a suitable indicator of where modern death metal is, but for once in their career that may not be such a bad thing. Death metal as it originally was is dead, and this is probably a good thing - if it just stayed the same it'd stagnate and end up like metalcore, bland and monotonous. The bands have accepted this, old and new, but a disturbing contingent of the fandom is refusing to move on. The albums of your childhood are still great, people, and they're not going anywhere, but a genre stays alive when the new bands take the old bands' influences and do something new. Slayer and Kreator have always been popular, and that's been the key to death metal's longevity, but if the elitists get their way, the old bands would influence the new bands, and nothing would change. Death metal would stagnate and die, and no-one wants that. Job For A Cowboy's new direction represents an alternative; resolutely death metal, undoubtably influenced by the Deicides and Cannibal Corpses of this world, but willing to forge their own musical identity. And if Ruination isn't just an anomaly, but indicative of their songwriting ability, they're the perfect band to lead the new generation.
I’ve never heard any other work from this band to be honest, and after listening to this I hope I never do either. How do I describe this album? It is basically deathcore posing as death metal. It is a very bland, linear, and repetitive album that carries most of the deathcore clichés, only they try to act like actual death metal.
Since it reminds me of deathcore, might as well explain the vocals. They are a mixed bunch of low death growls, fake blackish shrieks, and pig squeals here and there. The vocalist also uses a very linear pattern. By that I mean that he will start the verse with growls, and then switch to shrieks, then back to growls, then shrieks, and so on. Once in a while he throws a pig squeal in the mix instead of a shriek, but other than that the vocals are very predictable and boring. When you’re listening to the different vocal styles in each song only the growls are of any interest. The shrieks are rather mediocre sounding like he can’t hit that high, and the pig squeals…well they sound like pig squeals.
The rest of the band instrumentally wise is also very bland and boring. The guitars are generally your basic chug riffing repeated over and over throughout the verses, generally inaudible bass except for maybe in the breakdown section. A lot of the songs have a slower passage at the end of the track where the vocals “shine” their best when you just realize how obnoxious they really are. The production is decent I guess, the guitars are bold and don’t sound muddy or anything like that. This album I would guess would be a somewhat of a technical album, but just because you got a decent production and slow passages in your songs doesn’t really cut it to be tech death also. Now if you want to talk about the drumming this guy uses double kicks on every song for almost the entire song. It drowns out the rest of the drumming and gets repetitive quickly and you just realize how much of a mediocre drummer he really is.
Well this is basically generic deathcore only labeled as death metal most likely because the vocals are not fully that pig squealing bree bree bullshit. This album is bland, linear, repetitive, uninspired and at the end of the day a waste of money. Hell even Cannibal Corpse is more creative than these guys, and they’ve released the same album for over twenty years now.
Man JFAC has come a long way. It didn't hit me until my 2nd or 3rd listen of Ruination just how far this band has come. They have jumped leaps and bounds ahead of their 2005 Doom EP, which started circulating through myspace. JFAC ultimately became one of the faces of deathcore. Their major label debut Genesis saw them breaking away from their deathcore roots. Which, while it was a step in the right direction, the album itself was very bland and generic sounding. Ruination picks up where Genesis left off, in the sense that JFAC is still distancing itself from deathcore.
First off, this album is undeniably technical death metal. Though not mind blowing in it's technicality. This album is very straight forward in it's delivery. A band that instantly popped into my head when thinking of this style of technical death metal, was Decapitated. This album has that "Decapitated" feel to it, so much so that if it weren't for Jonny Davy's stand out vocals, it would be hard to distinguish the two in some occasions.
Though naturally one would point out that JFAC has gone through several line-up changes since it's first incarnation, and this is most likely why they sound so different. While this is true, and new comers Al Glassman (Despised Icon; Guitar), and Jon "The Charn" Rice (Drums) certainly bring something new to the table, the band overall has matured. The first noticeable difference, is there is virtually no pig squeals. Gone are the days of Jonny Davy relying on them like a crutch. Though to be fair, he had already been moving away from using them, however there were still some featured on Genesis. Returning guitarist Bobby Thompson has matured as well. Brent Riggs' bass still isn't audible, which isn't surprising for death metal.
One of the few stand outs from Genesis, was the lyrics. Instead of typical death metal themes (I.E. gore, death etc) JFAC chose to write more about religion, and the apocalypse (not very unique, I know). Genesis was in a nut shell about the birth of the anti Christ, and how he becomes this huge politician and ultimately takes over the world via the VeriChip (or, the "mark of the beast"). Ruination, while not a concept album like Genesis, still follows similar topics. Ruination's topic are more political than anything else. Ranging from human rights in North Korea to the use of torture in American military tactics.
Despite being technical death metal at it's core, Ruination still exhibits influences from various different genres. For instance, the solo at the end of "March To Global Enslavement" is clearly melodeath. Which, while it is short and not amazingly mind blowing, it is played flawlessly, and sounds very crisp and refined. Which is generally how the album is overall. It's not terribly creative, but what it does, is done right almost to perfection most of the time. Another example of this, would be the solo midway through "Unfurling A Darkened Gospel". Again, while not terribly creative, it's played well, and also showcases power metal influence. Also on "Unfurling A Darkened Gospel" is a short breakdown at the end of the song. It doesn't have the core band breakdown feel to it, but it does feel misplaced. At the beginning of "Ruination", there's almost an ambient black metal sound going for it.
One of my few complaints, is the album burns out through the second portion. The last track, "Ruination" is a good example of this. While it does serve as a good ending track (slower nature songs generally are), it still feels tame in comparison to the rest of the album.
Also, while the production is very good, there's a few occasions where it's almost as if the vocals and guitar are fighting to grab your attention. It feels as if they are clashing, and sounds clunky and unorganized. The ambient effects may potentially be viewed as overkill as well. They really aren't needed, but they aren't very abundant, and at least to me, seem to work for the most part (at the beginning of "Regurgitated Disinformation" for example).
The straight forward nature may also potentially be a turn off. Ruination has no intros/outros, or instrumentals for that matter. Aside from the title track, this album does not slow down. The sheer brutality versus technicality may be another deal breaker as well. If, for instance you like to have your face melted by mind blowing technically (Necrophagist, for instance), this may not be your cup of tea. If you prefer a band like Decapitated, this album is right up your alley. Though, let's face it, JFAC is no Decapitated.
When it all comes down to it Ruination is undoubtedly a step up from Genesis. A surprising turnaround from a once hated deathcore band. JFAC has certainly proven to be one of those bands that learns from their mistakes.
-A huge step for the band
-A very solid and consistent technical death metal album
-While "solid", it's still not "amazing".
-Some may be put off by the straight forward nature, and clean production.
"Regurgitated Disinformation" - Best track on the album
"March To Global Enslavement"
"Unfurling A Darkened Gospel"
Job For A Cowboy has become something of a household name in metal over the past few years. From their early days of exploiting myspace and the emerging deathcore genre, through to their transformation into a unique and inspired death metal group with their debut album, Genesis, Job For A Cowboy has always been a popular target for long-time fans of the death metal genre. Their unique fusion of death metal and hardcore on the EP, Doom, attracted fans from a wide range of genres, many of which will always be unpopular with the hardcore metal community.
As a result, Job For A Cowboy has had the task of somehow attracting said community thrust upon them, if they ever want to gain respect as a real death metal force to be reckoned with. I can speak for myself and other metal fans when I say that they are getting closer with each release, and Ruination is hitting a lot of marks with even the haters.
Continuing in Genesis’ direction, Ruination is a solid slab of strong drumming, maturing song-writing, and unbelievably versatile vocals (no, they haven’t reintroduced the infamous pig squeals, if anyone was seriously concerned). Jon Rice is a more than adequate replacement for the departed Elliot Sellers, a member I previously viewed as monumental to the band’s sound. Rice can easily roll out the beats necessary in an intense death metal setting, although he sometimes fails to capture Sellers’ wizardry in creating interesting and memorable fills and other accompaniments. The absence of Ravi Bhadriraju, Job For A Cowboy’s former guitar player, is somewhat more noticeable, and his unique tones and solos will be sorely missed as the band moves forward. Overall, while Job For A Cowboy still sounds unique in a fairly monotonous genre, the long-time fans may be put off by the lack of the past flares or Genesis’ epic guitar tones and inventive drumming styles.
It is safe to say that one can mostly attribute Job For A Cowboy’s worldwide success to vocalist Jonny Davy’s extremely original and versatile approach to harsh vocals; his spitfire mix of brutal death metal lows, shrieking black metal highs, and the opinion-dividing introduction of squealed vocals to a larger audience carried Davy and his band to the forefront of the extreme metal scene back in 2005. As with Genesis, Davy has seemingly permanently abandoned the squealed vocals in favour of the former 2 styles, possibly due to the judgemental opinions of the experienced metalheads, with which Job For A Cowboy is still seeking recognition. On Ruination, Davy can’t really be seen experimenting with any new sounds or lyrical concepts. While this may be interpreted as something of a sophomore jinx, it is only because he has already accomplished so much for a young vocalist in this genre, more than any other vocalist of his experience and beyond that comes to mind.
Overall, Ruination picks up exactly where Genesis left off: with a band striving for recognition from a wider and more experienced audience. While Ruination and Genesis are by and large stylistically similar in every way, previous haters may be pleased by the more straight-forward and intense approach to the drumming, as well as by the absence of the trebly guitar tones and solos found on Job For A Cowboy’s debut EP and album. For a band of their status, they bring a level of inspiration, uniqueness, and emotion to a genre often lacking. Ruination is definitely a sign of amazing accomplishments to come, even from this young band who has already catapulted themselves among the greats of death metal.
When I heard there was a new Job for a Cowboy release, I had to check it out. Not because I like the band, because I really don't, but because their last album Genesis was a vast improvement on their putrid Doom EP and I thought that if they kept it up they could release a great album. So I went out and picked this up.
The album starts out with "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", which sounds very much like something off Genesis. It's a good song overall, the drumming is fast and nothing in his kit goes unused, there is a pretty nice guitar solo, and the whole song is very catchy. But around the 2:00 mark, the song hits my biggest problem with the album: the high vocals. Mr. Davy decided it would be a great idea to take the low vocals from Genesis and combine them with the highs from Doom. It wasn't. They're still considerably better than they were on Doom, but they get annoying. Thankfully he doesn't use them much.
Next comes "Summon the Hounds", which also sounds like a song they wrote for Genesis but went unused (which is quite possibly true). Overall, very, very similar to the first track, which is a good thing.
The next track is "Constitutional Masturbation". This seems like the first track that wouldn't seem at home on Genesis. It shows a style that they showed briefly on the first two songs but just now comes out fully. Nice, fast riffs and well-executed slower passages that give the vocals a chance to shine. The band is definitely more technical than on their last offering.
But there really isn't any point reviewing the rest of the tracks, as they all pretty much follow the template of one of the first 3 songs. The band has definitely improved, enough to get this album a good score from me. They ditched the breakdowns from Doom and kept the more coherent style from Genesis, but polished it much more. The best song on here is probably "Constitutional Masturbation" which sets the template (thankfully, very well) for the rest of the album with the exception of the annoying and drawn-out "March to Global Enslavement".
I never thought I would enjoy ANYTHING Job for a Cowboy put out after a godawful EP and a barely mediocre full-length, but this is really a great album. I really wanted to hate this album, this IS the band that made "Entombment of a Machine" after all. But I really couldn't bring myself to say anything really bad about it. The band has matured and is now a band I would recommend to anyone who enjoys death metal but doesn't mind a bit of deathcore influence.