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Ruining the misconception of poserdom - 92%

All_Of_Life_Decays, July 17th, 2009

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.