Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cormorant - Dwellings

Cormorant's Dwellings was one of my favorite albums of 2011 as you could see on my top 25 list. The full cover art is also pretty sweet and captures the progressive, whimsical feel of the album.

I'm not normally a fan of progressive metal. I find the whining vocals and over-indulgent instrumentation and soloing to be dull and emotionally transparent. These guys are an exception, although I wouldn't go so far as to label them as purely progressive metal. They have elements of black metal and folk metal present in their sound as well, and Dwellings is anything but an album that can be pigeonholed in such a way.

Opener "The First Man" should be an obvious example of why Dwellings can't be easily labeled. The main riff is folk-ish, with a treble dominant sound, and it slowly progresses into a mid-paced jazz break halfway through the track. The whole album flows like the winding coils of a snake, undulating between black metal riffing, progressive melodies, all backed with a dense ethereal atmosphere. Slower tracks like "Funambulist" and "Unearthly Dreamings" dominate the soundscape with rich textures and solos that remain fluid. Cormorant never delves into self-indulgent wankery either. Even the mid-album instrumental "Confusion Of Tongues" avoids this while remaining a solid showcase of musicianship. The folk melodies resurface on"A Howling Dust" while "The Purest Land" has what is perhaps the most black metal influenced intro on Dwellings. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the variety is here if it's what you're looking for - and all of the different styles are implemented near flawlessly.

Speaking of flaws, there aren't many on Dwellings. The most blatant complaint I had is with the vocals. The cleans and monotone shouting work most of the time, but sometimes on tracks like "Junta" and the latter half of "The Purest Land" they get a bit grating. The production values are pretty stellar and every instrument is completely noticeable. Thanks to the huge amount of variety on here, Dwellings succeeds in being an atmospheric and emotionally compelling piece of progressive metal.

8.5 out of 10

1. The First Man

2. Funambulist

3. Confusion of Tongues

4. Junta

5. The Purest Land

6. A Howling Dust

7. Unearthly Dreamings

Bandcamp (because the interbutts is dead)

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