Cobalt -- Gin
Didn't think they could top Eater of Birds, let alone by such a long-shot, but sure enough Gin is another landmark album for this duo. They turned down the black metal influence and turned up the attention to songwriting and the result is a masterpiece of visceral, feral, fuckin intense metal. The vocalist Phil McSorley is an infantry soldier currently stationed in Iraq in the midst of the heavy action and recorded the vocals for this and the last album during his breaks, and knowing that really adds a different dimension to this band. Dude isn't fucking around. The clear, forceful production on Gin brings everything up a little more to the front, including the vocals, which range from a Michael Gira of Swans-like drone to a tortured shriek, but the guitar tone is what really benefits from the improved sound. Fat and crushing with a natural feel, and with great use of dynamics to make the heavy parts really hit hard. The main musical influences I hear on this record can be summed up as a mix between the hypnotic/progressive leanings of Neurosis, the violent blackened thrash riffing of a band like Destroyer 666 (or actually better put maybe like Bathory circa Blood Fire Death cuz some of these songs also have that kinda epic bounce to them), and surprisingly enough Undertow/Aenima-era Tool. I mean the last comparison more in terms of the feel or vibe I get from this record, along with the heavily percussive/tribal drumming and some of the riffs echoing songs like "Third Eye" and "Pushit". This is the only record I've heard that takes the Tool influence and does something unique and different with it in a clearly metal context, namely channeling that odd, vaguely supernatural vibe of albums like Aenima and essentially smashing it with a hammer in a ferocious display of primal humanity.
The best word I can think of to describe this album is intense, even during the transition parts, its tense and fierce and frothing at the mouth, metaphorically speaking. Check it out if this sounds like your thing.