Review Summary: Despite it's flaws, there is undoubted potential to be had as demonstrated in this 26 minute EP.
The Last Tree is the debut recording of death metal band Cormorant (with the upcoming Metazoa showing a progressive black metal sound). Their sound it’s self being heavily influenced by central and northern European heavy metal. Most evident on this album is Amon Amarth with the similar guttural vocal style and melodic riffing. The musicians present are (fretless)bassist and lyricist Arthur Von Nagel, guitarist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel. Their second guitarist, Matt Solis didn’t join until shortly after the release.
First and foremost, Arthur Von Nagel is a brilliant lyricist. It seems as though he spends weeks writing and tweaking his lyrics for the best caption of the story the song is telling. An example:
From Rain Follows the Plow
That rain would follow the plow
May God shine grace upon us
So rain may follow the plow.
A child's loss,
On the cross.
The American dream has died.”
Arthur has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the lyrical department, especially in the age of “I DON’T GIVE A *** IF YOU HATE ME”.
Arthur himself has quite the mean growl, strikingly similar to Johan Hegg, Stéphane Paré, and the Arghoslent vocalists. His delivery can be damn frightening such as in Two Brothers. Though for what he has in brutality, he lacks in diversity. Throughout The Last Tree, he uses the same mid ranged growl while doing a high pitched black metal screech occasionally. The songwriting follows are pretty standard routine. At times, it feels as though the songs are going on for longer than need be such as in Trojan Horses. Their skills at songwriting are shown on the album’s close which with be covered later.
The riffs here provided by Nick Cohon are melodic, brutal, and a bit folky backed by a powerful performance by drummer Brennan Kunkel whose fill frantic style is a bit of fresh air from the standard metronome style of metal drummers today. My only problem here is the phaser use which seems a bit out of place. Arthur as previously stated plays a fretless bass which is used to a great effect…..when the production doesn’t bury him under the untriggered bass pedal of the drums. This leads me to the production.
The production on the Last Tree is fairly decent. The riffs can be heard with fairly easily. The vocals are upfront perhaps a bit too much, to the point where you have to sometimes concentrate to hear the riffage. The main problem here is that the fretless bass is damned near inaudible at times. This is unfortunate because when it can be heard, it’s always doing something to perfectly compliment the guitar. To my knowledge, the recording process was a rush job and for what time they had, it is really well put together.
This is showcased on the EP’s closing song, Ballad of the Beast which is also the longest song on the album coming in at nine minutes. Ballad of the Beast best showcases what Cormorant is evolving into musically. Progressive by heart, it follows heavily in the tracks of Opeth. The fretless bass can heard best in this song providing atmosphere (think Steve DiGiorgio or Sean Malone). Several session musicians appear including a female singer who does a fantastic job handling Arthur’s lyrics. The song has a beauty and the beast effect with out being melodramatic like other bands. The riffs are black metal at heart and Brennan never goes into a frenzy and remains subtle.
Despite its faults, the Last Tree is a great debut for a young band. The riffing is great, the lyrics are excellent, and the performance is well done. At heart, it seems this band really enjoys what it does and will continue to evolve.