Review Summary: "I am the Destroyer of Worlds"
There is arguably no other band in the modern metal landscape that has spawned more internet and in-person verbal fights than Job for a Cowboy. They picked up a steady group of passionate followers and detractors when they released their debut 2005 EP Doom and the arguments have only gotten more intense over the years as they've drifted further away from the deathcore sound that first got them noticed. If anything is going to silence the legions of Job for a Cowboy detractors out there, it's going to be their new LP Sun Eater, which is not even remotely similar to anything the band has done in the past.
Sun Eater is much more reminiscent of foreign atmospheric death metal a la Gorguts and Morbus Chron than the contemporary American death metal they tackled on 2009's Ruination and 2012's Demonocracy. The technicality the band has brought to the table on their past few releases is still very much present, there's just a more of a focus on establishing a mood than constantly bombarding the listener with mind-numbing speed. The more expansive approach to the songwriting on Sun Eater allows the band to dive into the most ambitious, sprawling material they've ever produced.
Album opener "Eating the Visions of God" will more than likely take back anyone who's ever heard Job for a Cowboy before. The majority of the riffing is subdued, there's prominent bass throughout, the moments of technicality are unexpected and exciting, and there's an overwhelming aura of dread throughout the six-and-a-half minute runtime. Cuts like "Sun of Nihility", "The Synthetic Sea" and "Buried Monuments" only build upon the strength of "Eating the Visions of God". All of these songs have a distinct structure with dynamic instrumentation and moments of nuanced gloom that build organically into beautiful extreme metal bedlam. Even the more straightforward tech-death affairs on the record ("The Stone Cross", "A Global Shift") feel more fluid and dense than anything they've crafted in the past. The moments of subtlety in-between the chaos in the compositions allow Sun Eater to stand out from a vast majority of other recent tech-death releases.
The change in sound on Sun Eater also brings a lot more attention to the vast amount of talent Job for a Cowboy possesses. This is a band that has gone through a revolving door of members since their inception a decade ago (vocalist Jonny Davy is the only founding member still in the band,) and this incarnation of Job for a Cowboy is light-years ahead of any of their previous lineups. Guitarist Tony Sannicaderio evolves to the next level as a player with the most intricate riffs and solos he's ever written, session drummer Danny Walker (Intronaut, ex-Exhumed) seamlessly integrates himself into the fold and Davy delivers yet another strong, unabashedly evil vocal performance. However, the MVP of Sun Eater is bassist Nick Schendzilos. I have absolutely no idea why Job for a Cowboy waited so long to unleash this beast on the world. The flawless tone and finesse of the bass plays an integral part in helping establish the haunting atmosphere that runs through Sun Eater. The rest of the metal world needs to listen and take notes on how bass is used on this record. Bass is criminally underutilized in metal and Sun Eater serves as a perfect testament of just how effective it can be when its prominently featured in the music.
The constant shifts in sound Job for a Cowboy have made throughout their career have all culminated with Sun Eater. If Davy wasn't the vocalist, it couldn't even be identified as a Job for a Cowboy album. The variation of the songwriting and excellent musicianship throughout makes this album monumentally better than anything they did in the past. While there are times the record becomes meandering ("The Celestial Antidote", "Worming Nightfall"), the overwhelming strength of the rest of the album is more than enough to forgive the couple of missteps along the way. There will undoubtedly be some people out there that will dismiss Sun Eater simply because of the band's early reputation as the kings of pig-squealing, breakdown-laden deathcore. But for those open-minded listeners who are willing to overlook the days of "Knee Deep" and "Entombment of a Machine", you'll be treated to one of the most rewarding and dense death metal releases of 2014.