Black Cobra: Invernal

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Black Cobra: Invernal
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Black Cobra: Invernal
Doom Metal, Sludge Metal
Southern Lord Records
October 11th, 2011
Release length: 40:39
Myspace
Website
Black Cobra comes to us from Los Angeles, California, and have been doing a fantastic job of assaulting listeners throughout the years. The band formed back in 2001, releasing three full-length recordings and a few other efforts that include being part of an Adult Swim/Scion A/V compilation release. With their last album Chronomega, the band left their fans stunned with an uncompromising mixture of Sludge and Doom Metal, and for their 2011 effort Invernal, they try to do it again. But, is this effort really as crushing as their previous entry?

One of the bands that immediately comes to mind when hearing this release would be early Ministry, but that’s more in the intensity and rhaspier distorted vocals that come off commanding most of the time with intense, well executed loud screams when suiting to the music, and no Industrial obviously. The guitars here capture the Sludge sound perfectly with a thick distortion that is more towards a higher pitch traditional for bands of this style, a strong bass presence that backs up the guitars perfectly and adds a whole new layer to the mix, and the slightly raw audio quality works wonders in giving those two instruments a fantastic edge while making the drum kit’s snares loud, the cymbols a bit distant sounding but perfectly suiting to the release, with a deep, rich bassey thud to the bass kicks. The vocals dominate the mix, but not by drowning anything out, working well to keep the energy of the soul crushing intensity the band brings to the recording alive right from the very start of this release.

“Avalanche” kicks this album right into full-speed with some extremely pounding Sludge intensity. The song’s furious speed and overly aggressive music is simply uncompromising, and when coupled with the amount of energy brought in mixed with the often hypnotic drumming that appears in the more intense drumming of the bridges, one cannot help but immediately want to stand out and destroy everything and everyone in close proximity. This track establishes exactly what you get from Black Cobra on this release, which is just crushing, often pounding Metal. It seems like every track on here follows the same template of Doom Metal level crushing music and Sludge inspirations without actually becoming formulaic, and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air to the style, especially with the amount of Mastodon knock-offs flooding the scene as of late. But what’s more interesting is some of the complexity you can find in some of these songs.

While “Avalanche” doesn’t necessarily offer some more complex Sludge Metal passages, “Somnae Tenebrae” definitely does. The chords given are definitely more refined and offer more then some of the simpler notes you would find of the style. Similar to it’s predecessor, the song slams into gear right at the start, but while you think this is the full-speed pace you’re going to be stuck with until the end, as the closing of the song nears, Black Cobra actually manages to build up the intensity, which actually gives off some suspense, leaving you to wonder how far the band is going to push the song before it finally crests to it’s conclusion, allowing you a moment to relax and move back from the edge of your seat and unwind to the next track, “Corossion Fields.” This song isn’t quite the fast paced powerhouse the rest of the material is, actually taking on a bit of a slower performance, but that’s just fine. The music here is still heavy, though not quite as crushing in the long run, and there’s not that much energy to it, but the song itself is still a fantastic ride that you could easily get lost with, coming off as if it was meant to be more of an epic run through prehistoric Sludge Metal themes, or even barbaric ones. How you interpret the song will definitely vary, but there’s no denying the rawer and more ruthless sound of the track compared to the intense and far more aggressive fury of the faster tracks.

Sadly, there are no other songs that have the same intense impact of pure raw aggression that the first two tracks have. Invernal really starts to focus on having that crushing Doom Metal approach, but the general pace of later songs is often slower, which is still fine. The quality of these tracks are still great, and they do still have some more complex riffs for the Sludge style then many other bands out there would incorporate. These are actually lumped into a small collection, from “Corrosion Fields” to “Beyond” before breaking away from that pace momentarily, though the latter of that set actually comes off a little dark and colder in comparison to the rest. “Erebus Dawn” does welcome the faster material back in, but it’s nowhere near as high in speed, and the drums really do take command of the song like in “Avalanche,” though not in a hypnotizing sense. The strong focus on the drums this time around allows the guitars to work in the background and set up a truly gripping sound for them, and as it progresses the solo sounds absolutely stunning and matches the somewhat dismal atmosphere throughout, especially during the more droning drumwork that kicks up as you near the half way mark of the song, which is really where the track shines it’s brightest.

Sure not much detail has been spent on the slower material, but what has been said covers the four songs on here nicely. Aside the three mentioned, “Abyss” brings that slower pace back well, and it does a good job at being a strong, more atmospheric Sludge Metal track with a good dose of the Doom Metal presence here and there, especially with the somewhat haunting introduction. This track is actually an instrumental that seems to set up the following closing track, “Obliteration,” but really it doesn’t do that great a job. The song itself is really the only one here that isn’t too enjoyable, mostly because it feels like the band drug the song out a bit too long, and it’s not too complex or even that unique to the Sludge Metal style, but it’s still good for what it is. “Obliteration” just hammers in with constant blast beats and pure intensity, but it feels a bit over-the-top in an effort to try to capture the energy of the first few tracks. When the music isn’t slamming at you with those blasting segments, it actually does get a little catchy and has that Doomish crushing sound moreso then the driving blasts that do occur. As a closing track, it does a good job at enthusiasm, but it just doesn’t quite work out to wrap the album up nicely.

Even taking those two closing tracks into consideration, Invernal is perhaps one of the best Sludge Metal albums to be released in 2011 at the point of this review. The music is simply crushing and enthusiastic with some nice complex material and atmospheres thrown in through the varying speed and degrees of raw aggression. Black Cobra is not a band that usually lets their fans down, and this is an album that doesn’t disappoint. What else is there to say about this album other then that, sure, the last two songs here may not be the greatest send off to a recording for this album, and even can feel a bit generic, but “Abyss” is still a good song, “Obliteration” lives up to it’s title, and the album in general is just an intense thrill ride from the very second it starts. If you like this style, or the mixture of Sludge with Doom Metal crushing material intrigues you, or even if it doesn’t, you need to pick up this album. You will not regret it.

01. Avalanche – 4:42
02. Somnae Tenebrae – 3:30
03. Corossion Fields – 6:07
04. The Crimson Blade – 5:24
05. Beyond – 6:23
06. Erebus Dawn – 6:15
07. Abyss – 5:27
08. Obliteration – 2:51
Overall Score: 9/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Southern Lord Records via Earsplit PR.