By Chase Macabre (STL)
On their Facebook page, Cormorant describe the genre of music they play as "post-black metal weirdshit." While existing in the same aesthetic sphere as other US black metal, especially those with whom they share the same long red bridge over the bay, the band is closer to black Sabbath than they are to Darkthrone or Bathory or any other black metal band. To call them "black metal" is like calling Krallice, Kvelertak or Rotting Christ "black metal"―it's a jumping off point.
Hailing from the Bay Area, the four-piece self-released their latest full-length album, Dwellings, just before the end of 2011. Much like haarp's brilliant The Filth, the record was released well after most critics had shored up their "Best Of's" (including myself, sorry guys.) The staunchly independent band funded the record themselves, calling it "a labor of love" and quipped, "no labels were harmed in the creation of this album."
Dwellings was produced by Justin Weis at Trakworx Studios in San Francisco. Coincidental or not, Cormorant shares sonic similarities with several of the bands Weis has produced in the past, including Agalloch and Ludicra. Dwellings, however, is nearly the opposite of their previous LP, Metazoa. In an interview with Lars Gotrich of NPR, vocalist and bassist Arthur von Nagel said:
"[With] Metazoa, we were so excited to be in a big studio with a legendary producer [that] we just threw everything into the pot, you know? Tons of guest vocals, string sections, pianos... it's a messy album in a sense. I feel that's the charm of it — I hope! With Dwellings, we wanted that exactitude from Justin to come through, but we also wanted a certain blackness and roughness."Despite pulling back in a lot of ways, Dwellings has a warm fullness and is at times majestic. Some of the majesty and warmth is thanks to the band recording to tape, a method that is about as old as Cormorant's music sounds. Big '70s rock n' roll riffs swing with ballsy swagger and huge, boomy drum sounds would put a smile on even Bonham's face. The band shares vocal duties and do everything from bile-throated, raspy gargles to thrash metal yells and ethereal clean vocals. The seven songs are cinematic; the band weaves musical narratives and gracefully changes dynamics and crosses genre lines like Moses on dry ground. For lesser bands, this usually equates to a hodgepodge of ADHD riffage. However, Cormorant's maturity is on display, slowly building musical themes, writing transition sentences between paragraphs, skillfully selecting what adds to the story and deleting what retracts.
Cormorant's storytelling prowess isn't only found in their music either, as Nagel spends considerable time researching and crafting his lyrics. A lot has been made of the lyrics to "Junta." The song retells in stark relief the genocide in Guinea during a pro-democracy rally in 2009 using quotes because, as Nagel puts it, "the horror tells itself." "Junta" is immediately striking with the first line stating, "What horrors we wage/in the light of day/bodies left decaying/for the world to see" over top of a riff like a battle cry. Each song on Dwellings is like this. They are all based on real stories and that have immediacy and are heavier than any "trve" black metal band that lives in a fantasy worlds. Cormorant are authentic.
Regardless of what genre you really want to label Cormorant, their integration of black metal and "weirdshit" on Dwellings is more than black and rough enough for me and probably for you, too.
Listen to Cormorant
Photo of Dwellings' cover. Painted by Alice Duke