Cormorant - Earth Diver - (5/10)
Published on April 15, 2014
Genre:Progressive Death / Progressive Metal / Black
It seems like a distant memory now but a few years ago the assessment rubric I applied to Cormorant releases was effectively guided by a single question: how much do I like it? My liking it was a foregone conclusion; the only thing that mattered was how much I liked it. After all, this is the band that put out one of the best EPs ever (The Last Tree), followed it up with one of the best debut full-lengths ever (Metazoa) and then graced sophomore effort Dwellings with one of the most impressive cover artworks ever. I’m spouting hyperbole but damn, what a band!
Fast-forward three years later and I’m left wondering how the hell things had gone so horribly pear-shaped. Is this actual music or some high-brow artistic statement of mood? Sure, they are a progressive band through and through, so far be it for me to bemoan the fact that Earth Diver packs all the dense complexity of a James Joyce novel, but it pains me that album number 3 borders on the near unlistenable. The riffs are more circular and free flowing than ever, the melodies suffocate in the din and at no point do any of the songs truly lock into a coherent groove. There are no tendons connecting muscle and bone on here and the result is a sonic mess.
Their style, made up as it is from scraps of Opeth’s proggish inclinations, the forlorn quality of Agalloch, the exuberance of Amorphis in top flight and the swagger of Slough Feg, never lent itself to what could qualify as ‘straightforward’ or ‘easy listening’ compositions, but on here they have allowed their pursuit of the ornate to get the better of them. Nothing on here ‘clicks’. You get the “acoustic song” (“Eris”), the “blastbeat song” (“Waking Sleep”) and the obligatory “long song” (“A Sovereign Act”), and that’s that. In depth analysis doesn’t apply because, well, this really is nothing but an endless sequence of riffs and tempos. Classics like “The Emigrant’s Wake” and “Funambulist” are nowhere to be found on here because the band had lost their heretofore masterful grasp of riff and vibe. Oh, they also lost vocalist/bassist extraordinaire Arthur Von Nagel, whose fretless histrionics and passionate vocals are sorely missed.
So, without forgetting to mention that the foreboding melodies of “The Pythia” and the subtle sense of urgency of “Broken Circle” imbue the album with a marginal sense of pathos and coherence I really can’t recommend this album. Rarely before has an intricate album sounded so vapid. Oh, how the mighty have fallen…