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Boot planted in mouth, or, deathcore goes Darwin - 77%

autothrall, March 5th, 2010

After riding high on a mass wave of fan buzz, Metal Blade was fairly quick to snap up the young Job for a Cowboy, one of the primary, emergent forces in what many dreaded to label 'deathcore', or what I might deign to label 'death metal with breakdowns performed by mostly guys with very short hair and cool tattoos'. If the countless hundreds of promos or suggestions I've been receiving in the past 4 years are any indication, this was no drop in the pan, and there was no finite end in sight to the flood. Within months, every kid with a guitar and access to the 'thrash' and 'metal' download content for Rock Band or Guitar Hero was starting up his deathcore band, most of which adopted similar silly phrased names as the old 90s melodic hardcore/metal/emo crossover bands were using.

However, something in the dry Arizona air must have taken hold on the resolution and spines of Job for a Cowboy, because their debut full-length Genesis arrived as a stark evolution on the unmemorable rabble of the Doom EP in 2005. No, stylistically, they have not morphed 100% into some pure death metal entity. What they have done here is learned to actually pen a pretty good song. Not only do they incorporate a lot more straight brutal death metal, and set up the vocals better against the weaving bombast of the guitars and drums, but they actually manage to manufacture breakdowns that are simply superior to those of their formative years. Sure, they happen, but the band ensures that something entertaining will always be happening for those of us who prefer the more graceful acrobatic events to the brute shotput of the slam dancing anthems. And they clean up tidily, with 10 tracks in just 30 minutes, leaving no time for the listener to grow bored, simply to wonder what it was that just spun your head about 360 degrees on your neck. Oh yeah, and the cover art also kicks about that.

"Bearing the Serpent's Lamb" opens with a steady, snaking groove that fires up an amalgamation of later Suffocation and Pestilence, before embarking on a forward termination of complex thrashing carried out by each guitar in violent cooperation. And to boot...there is no childish, horrid breakdown in sight. The groove at 1:30 succeeds in part because of the vocals grabbing the attention, and the busier rhythm of the guitar. And "Reduced to Mere Filth" continues the pacing, with a staggering array of death/thrash over a turbulent, Elliot Sellers battery. "Altered from Catechization" once again drops the frontal thrash hammer, soon evicted for some tank tread, grinding drum rolls over which the guitars never cease to amuse. This is a longer track for the album, at over 4 minutes, but despite the more prolonged, slower grooving sections, it manages to retain its edge. "Upheaval" is the first of two ambient/industrial pieces on the album, and it haunts with some choral samples, synths, and noises before the band erupts back into the milieu with "Embedded", a herald of modern devastation. There is a point in which this song teases you that it's going to involves one of the band's older, shittier breakdowns, but they are quick to relent with a brick wall of tumbling death.

Surprisingly, Job for a Cowboy have nothing waiting in the deeper wings of the album save more of their impressive, evolutionary juggernaut force. "Strings of Hypocrisy" weaves a subtle atmospheric line into the mathematical precision which also gives it the surgical feel of a lot of modern US tech death bands. "Martyrdom Unsealed" is likewise sickening, in particular I like that grooving rhythm at the :30 mark before it transforms into the gloomy octave chords. The breakdowns later in the song playout in a very similar manner to what Poland's Decapitated were writing on their first two albums. "Blasphemy" is the other ambient interlude, and it's quite ominous as it flows into the slow crashing of "The Divine Falsehood", which puts a mystic spin on the old formula due to its simplicity and the insertion of far more atmosphere than we've heard on any track up to this point. It doesn't change much in the 'epic' length of 4:30 minutes, but the band does subtly integrate further atmosphere as orchestral synths begin to swell just behind the churning guitars. "Coalescing Prophecy" brings our heads down from the clouds and just kicks them in with its blunt action, but aside from the tech thrashing explosions, it is probably the most typical and dull track on the album. Not a total waste, mind you, but some of the breakdowns have seen better days.

In all, I was quite pleased with what I had heard here. I'm not going to sit here and gab about whether or not this band has 'legitimized' itself through its Genesis. You can either judge the record for what it is, or bellyache about what it's not. What I'm hearing here is a death metal record, with a trace of the band's thundering boyhood breakdown savvy that just won't completely die. But the forefront here is a blast of powerful, energetic modern death metal with some nice riffing that compares favorable to a lot of the brutal young acts that have been popping up these past few years in the tech death spectrum. So give it a chance. It's hardly an immortal effort, but Job for a Cowboy has regrouped, written songs with an actual direction, and beaten the disbelief out this old codger. Congratulations.

Highlights: Bearing the Serpent's Lamb, Strings of Hypocrisy, The Divine Falsehood