Cobalt - Eater Of Birds
Profound Lore Records
Progressive Black Metal
11 songs (1:10:06)
Release year: 2007
Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Goat

The mark of genius in Black Metal is harder to find than fans would have you believe. There are vast numbers of bands out there that barely manage to repeat what their peers have achieved, let alone improve upon it; rather, they are content to step in their ancestors’ footprints, leaving no more than the residue of what was marked out the first time around. A certain few, however, are capable, and keep the hope of finding something new burning in our hearts.

Enter Colorado duo Cobalt. The band may have its roots in the likes of early Mayhem and later Marduk, but with Eater Of Birds this auspicious set of influences has been surpassed. Where the songs in 2005’s War Metal were mostly around the four to five minute mark, here there’s less rigidity. Songs can vary from one minute to ten, often seeming longer than their actual length due to the sheer variety packed in.

The base elements are, as before, merely guitar and drums with no bass whatsoever, and yet this is far from simplistic. Make no mistake, this isn’t ‘plug n’play’ Black Metal – this will take time and effort to fathom, much like the carcass depicted on the cover. What does it mean? Has some unseen, malicious force left it there deliberately, or is this a random side effect of the otherwise all-pervading darkness?

Superficially, one might well listen to Eater Of Birds and remain nonplussed. USBM can tend to blend together into one vast, dark morass, after all. However, the longer you give this album, the more it reveals of itself, and the depths become clearer. Opening track When Serpents Return begins with ambience and tribal percussion, before a rapidly expanding hypnotic darkness bursts forth, carrying all before it in a surge of atmospheric yet noticeably technical Black Metal. There are breakdowns, tempo changes, even catchy melodies, and yet it sounds like a classic Black Metal song, screamed vocals and a primitive production guiding your conscious down one channel whilst simultaneously your subconscious is being introduced to a very strange world indeed.

This strangeness comes more to light as the album continues. Ulcerism starts as Melvins meets Impaled Nazarene, strange Stoner melodies rising to the surface and sinking again as the intense drums pound and guitar feedback squalls – imagine Nirvana as channelled through early Gorgoroth and you’re partway there. The track shifts towards the end into frantic Thrashy riffing, much like recent Satyricon but with all control lost, chaos reigning.

Such slabs of brutally twisted Metal are broken up by acoustic interlude pieces, all three named Ritual Use Of Fire. They’re uniformly excellent, serving as increasingly eerie and claustrophobic pauses for breath, and when listened to in context throughout the album as a whole, help to make the listen as exceptional as it is. Other moments, such as the Neurosisy percussion that builds up towards the end of Blood Eagle Sacrifice into something that Converge might give birth to, or the Doom Metal blast of Witherer that steps into Tool territory halfway though, are simply amazing, and it’s fascinating that Cobalt is capable of taking these steps away from pure Black Metal without once compromising the foundation of its sound. Even the guest spots by underground chanteuse par excellence Jarboe are so overshadowed by the main murk of Cobalt’s sound that it’s quite possible to listen multiple times and never realise they exist.

As mentioned at the start of this review, it’s very rarely that Black Metal as a genre produces something truly transcendental. The few artists that have overcome its boundaries in the past – Ulver, Manes, Arcturus, and so on – have taken significant steps away from their roots; Cobalt hasn’t. Instead, like some foul bloodsucking leech the band’s brand of Black Metal has taken the best bits of the other genres it touches and digested them, made them a part of itself. Even if this wasn’t just the band’s second album it would be a massive achievement, deserving of attention from fans of intense and atmospheric music of all sorts – the Black Metallers out there will love it above all, though. Highly recommended.

Killing Songs :
When Serpents Return, Ulcerism, Blood Eagle Sacrifice, Witherer, Invincible Sun, Androids Automatons and Nihilists, Eater Of Birds
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Cobalt that we have reviewed:
Cobalt - Slow Forever reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Cobalt - Gin reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
Cobalt - Landfill Breastmilk Beast (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Cobalt - War Metal reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
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