Album Review: Earth Diver by Cormorant
Posted by RiffRaff
When take a gander at some of the reasons some of my favorite bands have remained my favorite bands over the course of decades one reason always seems to take the forefront. The ability to grow and evolve, not afraid to make dramatic changes, while remaining true to a core sound or style that initial made me a super-fan in the first place. These kind of bands give me something to look forward from release to release as I know I am going to get lots of new alleyways and avenues to explore. They keep their career fresh and I get a variety of albums to listen to (unlike just more or less needing a single album that sums up the bands catalog) all with different experiences contained within.
Enter Cormorant. A couple of years ago when they released their sophomore album Dwellings my ears picked up on the unique blend of blackened prog rock tinged with hints of classic metal and instantly became a super-fan of the Bay Area band. As par for the course, since I liked their current record so much I ponied up the cash for the back catalog expecting more of the same that was on Dwellings. To my delight, their debut album Metazoa was a much different beast than the record I was spinning ad nauseam, yet was still very much a Cormorant affair. They just needed a third record to prove they were the real deal and not just a fluke and they were pretty much guaranteed a spot in my coveted Realm of Upper Echelon Bands. I was very much hoping this would happen. Then tragedy struck; Arthur Von Nagal, the bands front man, lyricist, vocalist, bassist, and major songwriter contribute made the decision to leave the band to pursue in a career of video game development (FYI, that really freaking awesome Walking Dead game that won all them awards, he was on that team. Go play games made by TellTale, their all great!).
Lucky for us fans, the rest of the band wished him well and decided to carry on with Cormorant enlisting a new vocalist/bassist (Marcus Luscombe) to fill some pretty big fucking shoes. I was definitely going to that evolution I had wanted from the next album, but was I going to get that outstanding songwriting that I had believed the departed member had a major role in creating? Short answer (like I’m capable of that, lol) Oh, fuck yes!
Earth Diver is a portrait of another evolution in the Cormorant catalog and is just as outstanding as their previous full length releases. Where I could say Metazoa had an aquatic, dream-like style and Dwellings aimed for a fiery, at times disturbing, celestial approach, Earth Diver is found brandishing an Earthen, soil-rich sound. The overall sound this turn has a more blackened core and often conjures images of adventuring below the crust of the Earth while I listen. And while there is a lot more black metal influence to be heard on the album, not once does the band fall into the trap of boring tremolo and blast beat overuse nor incomprehensible Predator with a sore throat vocals. Same with the prog end of things; no superfluous wankery or needlessly long songs, just a songwriting style the eschews the standard chorus/refrain/repeat in lieu of something more flowing, challenging, and engaging. And on that prog note, especially the word ‘flowing’ is where this album really succeeds.
Opening with the haunting pluck of a Gothic tone which flows into a Flamenco-esc acoustic guitar section on the song ‘Eris’ which in turns snaps into the build up of one of the grooviest black metal riffs I’ve heard in quite some time on ‘Daughter of Void’ you get an idea that perfecting the flow of the album was one focus Cormorant wanted to accomplish. And accomplish they did do indeed. As you move from one part to the next every movement and change feels organic and necessary. There is nothing but pure engagement at every turn as you listen to hear what corner the band brings you down next.
Through the dearth of variety on the record you’ll be greeted by hypnotic, yet extremely melodic black metal alleys, bouts of thundering hard-core, energetic injections of thrash, tear inducing guitar solos, and both clean and gruff vocals adding contrasting dynamics when needed. Tracks like ‘Sold as a Crow’, ‘A Sovereign Act’, and ‘The Pythia’ stand out as some of the best work the band has done to date as they really explore what can be done in the progressive black metal realm (well, tbh, every track on here does, but those 3 really stand out) and show that there is still plenty of imagination to be found within the genre.
To speak any deeper of what to expect on the album would be a disservice to any first time listener as it would take away the joy of discovery that comes with an album of this nature. Just trust me when I say you should totally dive right into this record, preferably when you have the time to pop some headphones on and take the whole trip at once to really appreciate how damn great the flow and eccentricities of the record are.
A personal thank you to Matt Solis, Nick Cohen, and Brennan Kunkel for deciding to move forward with the band and provide people like me with moving and quality music. Really looking forward to see where things head on the next album. Keep it evolving!