Sound: Cormorant have managed to fuse together a myriad of influences to create a sound that they can truly call their own. The Metal Archives describe them as progressive folk\black metal, but this merely scratches the surface. The song structure shows their progressive influences with rarely a chorus to be seen and the rhythm section holds everything together tightly, but also adds a lot to the overall sound. I'd go so far as to say that the bass parts stand out as the strongest instrument in the mix. Check out the intros of "Salt Of The Earth" and "Hanging Gardens" to hear what I mean.
The lead work from the guitarists is drawn from a palette of head banging riffs that come from classic rock\metal ("Scavengers Feast", "Uneasy Lays The Head") to post-rock, delay soaked single note lines ("Hole In The Sea"), and moments taken from black\death\thrash metal are interspersed with folkier parts without sounding forced or unnatural ("The Emigrants Wake"). All the instruments entwine perfectly and every part adds something, however subtle, to the song. The solos especially feel like they haven't been added out of necessity; they flow into and out of the songs without a second thought.
Overall the production lends itself to the album. It isn't under produced as you might expect from a band with black metal influences, but it certainly is not overproduced. I would describe it as natural sound; no instrument stands out further than you would expect, but each part has been put into place to support the song as a whole. // 8
Lyrics: The singing is the weakest component in this album, but it is by no means awful. In fact, like the other instruments in play, the singing holds itself as part of the track. I just feel that maybe the production could have been better and some of the performances could have been instilled with a little more power. "Salt Of The Earth"'s "Rise, rise, rise... Kill" fell short for me and the cacophonous cries "I am this mortal coil" at the crescendo of "Hole In The Sea" didn't quite hit the mark I expected. This is not to say there are not some good moments and the mix of black metal screams, death metal growls, clean vocals and spoken word parts keep the vocals fresh and not overdone. Highlights are the guest vocals of Aaron Gregory on "Hole In The Sea", which reminded me of Neurosis (especially their "Eye Of Every Storm" era) and the clean vocals on The Emigrants Wake. "Walk into the waves, as the footprints fade away. Oceans leave no graves. All our legacies decay".
That excerpt from "The Emigrants Wave" also displays some of the lyrics from this album. I have to say, some of the best conceived vocals that I have heard in metal for a very long time. Classic poetry such as Paradise Lost and Divine Comedy seem to be an influence here. There are themes of mythology, nature, politics and religion. There is an overall conveyance of a feeling of being small, lost within an infinite universe and it's this emotion that really draws me toward the lyrics. I've already quoted some of my favourites from "The Emigrants Wake", "Hole In The Sea" and "Salt Of The Earth". From "Hanging Gardens" the lyrics "Through the bars I saw the fields, the stars mere cogs in ox cart wheels. The Earth a pebble in the stream, but not one human to be seen" and from "Sky Burial" "Fade into stars as God machines. With our arms we will shape the world. With this breath we become the world" further invoke the feeling of uneasiness that we live in a world where we are insignificant. Pure brilliance. // 7
Overall Impression: The album came in a digipack along with a sticker and a post-it note signed by, I think, Arthur Von Nagel. This little touch made me feel like it was all the more worth making the effort to purchase the album in this era where downloading is becoming the norm (Note that this album was actually gifted to me). The artwork, although very different, reminded me of some of Mastodon's artwork; mainly their "Leviathan" album. This was due to the prevalent themes of nature and, more specifically, the ocean. The all important lyrics are printed inside.
That no labels are involved and the band members all work full time jobs makes this debut all the more triumphant. However, the initial listen to this album lets none of its secrets out. This could put casual listeners off to begin with; I urge you to spin this disk a few more times and let the music work its magic. My preliminary thoughts were that this was an average album by an average band, but with every extra play through it got more and more under my skin and it was the only album I listened to for 3 weeks. It is still a regular in my playlist.
This is a band to watch. They are working on a second album and I am waiting in trepidation. I haven't been excited about metal this much for a long time. // 8