Cormorant - Earth Diver | Review

Most often my atrocious memory is a curse. I forget things all the time. Especially about music I haven't heard in a while. It kinda makes this job difficult. But other times it can be a blessing. When first asked to cover the new Cormorant album, I hesitated. I thought “I don't think I like Cormorant.” But I couldn't recall why not. I could vaguely remember “progressive” and that's usually a term that puts my hackles up. But I gave Earth Diver the benefit of the doubt and gave it a listen. What I reluctantly heard may be one of the best albums released this year. And to think I almost dismissed it! After at least a dozen runs through Earth Diver I went back to listen to previous album Dwellings. Turns out my memory wasn't all that bad. As much praise as I'll heap on Earth Diver, I still wasn't all that stoked on Dwellings.

The first major difference between the two albums is on the personnel side. Bassist/vocalist Arthur Von Nagel moved on and Marcus Luscombe has stepped in to take his place. On the musical side of things both measure up more or less the same. But vocally Luscombe is a major step up. Not to disparage Von Nagel though. Luscombe seems more accomplished or rounded with his black metal rasp and Cormorant is all the better for it. I think this played a big part in changing my opinion of the band.

Earth Diver also steps things up in terms of drive. Dwellings has its driving black metal movements of course but on Earth Diver Cormorant always have someone with their foot on the gas. The result is an album that sinks its hooks in deep and keeps tension on the chains throughout the album. As much as you feel helpless to resist Cormorant's pull, anticipation is always there.

There are so many parts to these songs that there is always something waiting just around the corner. For instance, a regular device they use involves blasting away in full black metal mode (think Bosse-de-Nage), firing the listener through the tunnel beneath their mountainous vibe then emerging into the sun in a plume of soaring and/or groove-laden melodies. Their travels through the heart-stopping stratosphere can end just as abruptly, either back into darkened recesses of the earth or even higher into the vast heights of prog metal's upper echelon.

It's like taking the best parts of Mastodon and Skeletonwitch's black side, tossing in some doom and laying it out in a delicious and jaw-dropping presentation.

It might seem like Cormorant pack in riffs and movements like sailors in a submarine but none of it sounds forced. Their songwriting and flow is flawless and natural. Each moment leads to the next with effortless grace. What’s equally obvious is how Cormorant put every ounce of their being into Earth Diver. Nothing is done half-assed even at their quietest.

Cormorant have seriously upped their game with Earth Diver. Everything is just better. The Hydra-headed vocal interplay is more convincing. The production is cleaner. The percussion (Brennan Kunkel) achieves the pinnacle of conviction, and the guitars (Nick Cohon and Matt Solis) reach deep in to the core of your being through technicality, power and gorgeous melodies.

These are simply damn good and absurdly catchy tunes. Many people wondered how Cormorant would recover after losing Von Nagel. With Earth Diver they've put any doubt to rest. With songs like “Sold as a Crow” and “Broken Circle” being among the best you'll hear this year, Cormorant will likely dominate come list season.

Matt Hinch 

Band info:

Matt Hinch lives an unassuming life on the backroads outside Forest Mills, Ontario, Canada. He packs in as much metal as he possible can amid factory work, raising three daughters with his wife and working the land. In addition to Scratch the Surface Matt also writes for Hellbound, Metal Bandcamp, About Heavy Metal and his own blog, Kingdom of Noise.
Keep up with him on Twitter @KingdomofNoise.