Review Summary: Metazoa has something for everyone. If like Gothenburg then you’ll love Blood on the Cornfields or if you dig Opeth, then Salt of the Earth is for you. Just do yourself a favor and give this album a spin.
Ambition and creativity are quite the rarity in metal these days. Rarely do you see bands adding death metal and southern United States folk or ambient black sludge just for the hell of it. Bands just seem to be afraid of changing or are locked into a core sound (E.G. Amon Amarth or every Finnish band :P). Even Opeth, one of the biggest progressive metal bands around recycles the same formula quite often. With Metazoa, Cormorant seems to be out to change that. Metazoa has 10 tracks including one instrumental and comes in at 1 hour, 9 minutes. Every song here has the main Cormorant sound elements but every song has a very different approach and influence. Cormorant blends genres as they see fit and the outcome is fantastic.
The album opens with Scavengers Feast and I couldn’t think of any other way to accurately show case Cormorant’s sound within one song. Clean guitars? Check. Soaring vocals? Check. Brutal roars? Check. Smooth jazz interludes? Check. Chunky heavy parts? Check. And these are just the core elements of their sound, as I mentioned before, every song has its own unique elements and influences. To review every single track individually would be a daunting task and frankly, would remove the fun of a first listen.
As with their previous record, the Last Tree, Arthur Von Nagel (bass/vocals) has out done himself again in the lyrical department. Cormorant much like their music has no set lyrical theme such as Vikings or gore. Song themes range from the French Reign of Terror in Uneasy Lies the Head to Nate Turner’s slave rebellion in Blood on the Cornfields to a cosmic whale procreating with the sun in Hole in the Sea. The songwriting here is superb. Riffs are plentiful and unique. It seems that every member had a hand in writing the core style of a song and having the rest of the group fill in their own mechanics. The musicians themselves all work together in a brilliant chemistry. Nick and Matt’s riffs are heavy and original. The subtle Slough Feg folk style of them fits greatly with Brennan’s fill heavy style of drumming. To bring the band together, Arthur’s chord heavy, diddle around style of bass playing brings the sonic landscape to a close. He never really follows the guitar but more so walks next to it and does his own thing, very similar to Sean Malone. A few guest musicians make an appearance. Lewis Patzner of Judgement Day adds cello to many of the song and Matt’s brother Andrew adds subtle keyboards to the mix.
All 3 vocalists fit together very well having a low, mid, and high pitched singer and creating Alice in Chains style vocal harmonies and chants. Arthur handles all the harsh vocals while having Matt and Brennan sing cleanly. On the Last Tree, Arthur was the only vocalist and had a quite monotonous Johan Hegg type growl. The added vocal variety of Matt and Brennan and the black metal shrieks have greatly improved the sound of Cormorant. Deborah makes another appearance and adds her vocals to a few songs. She compliments the romantic nature of the music really well and once again not in a melodramatic-Nightwish way either. Aaron Gregory of Giant Squid makes an appearance as well on Hole in the Sea. This track is easily one of the highlights of Metazoa just for this alone. Aaron's gruff drunken style of reciting a song about space whales and the Tom Waits style of singing at the end creating harmonies with Arthur’s harsh vocals and Deborah's females ones works amazingly well.
The production of Metazoa is vastly superior to that of the Last Tree’s. Cormorant has got a famous producer to aid them this time in the form of Billy Anderson (Sleep, Primordial, and Neurosis). If you have heard Sleep’s Dopesmoker or Primordial’s The Gathering Wilderness, then you will know what to expect. Metazoa has a very low end heavy sound, backed by Brennan’s drums and Arthur’s bass. Another complaint I had with the Last Tree was the bass playing was practically inaudible most of the time. This time, it is clearly audible is every song although sometimes it seems to drop out or lose note definition and become percussive. This is to be expected as the layered production is massive in sonic sound and just the fact the bass is mostly audible in its environment is a testament to Billy Anderson's production skill. The guitars are crisp and upfront. The vocals don’t bury them like on The Last Tree. The drums have an organic tone to them which reminds me of much of Earl of Void’s from Reverend Bizarre's first album, In the Rectory of the Bizarre Reverend.
With the release of this album, the band is certainly living up to their potential. Taking influence but never stealing, they break away from their Californian neo-thrash and metalcore peers. The sheer quality of this album makes me wonder why they are not signed and are self releasing at the time of this review. Metazoa has something for everyone. If like Gothenburg then you’ll love Blood on the Cornfields or if you dig Opeth, then Salt of the Earth is for you. Just do yourself a favor and give this album a spin.