It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally managed to wrap my thoughts around BLACK COBRA’s fourth full-length album, “Invernal.” The Los Angeles duo of guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafael Martinez have offered up an album that seethes sandy and blistered, a shot-in-the-arm Stoner/Sludge release that swirls rapid like a ground-sheering tornado. It’s grating, chaotic and desperately addictive sonic intensity from start to finish, steering around sharp turns with screeching brakes and waving middle fingers, and for this you love them: putting on BLACK COBRA is just never a bad idea.
But likewise, you wonder if this album could have been even better; if Landrian’s gravely shouted vocals and buzzing guitar lines and Martinez’s constant outpouring of teeth-rattling drum-work weren’t so heavily relied on. Songs vary between locust storms and killer bee attacks; feverish and near-blinding swarms. Ignoring its synonymy ultimately depends on the listener, but as a record of consistency, a bloody and venomous concept piece, this shit destroys.
Tracks like “Avalanche” and “Obliteration” are aptly titled and give no quarter, but others like “Beyond” and the instrumental highlight, “Abyss,” a pair of songs that reflect moments where Landrian and Martinez aren’t going batshit crazy, lend the album a gracious respite. Martinez, in particular, must be exhausted after playing a handful of these tracks in a live setting. Dude is quite the whizz on the drums and even though he goes a little nutso on the cymbals from time-to-time, his endurance and energy really drives this album forward.
The production of “Invernal” is suitably harsh, and there’s a considerable density to the album, but likewise this riff-concentration is captured and slapped around by the record’s ever-cruising velocity. “Invernal,” at times, seems like it was recorded in an air-tight room and BLACK COBRA, furious at their predicament, play as viciously as they can before time runs out. While not Thrash in the typical sense, the band rips ahead with fire at their heels and Sludge in their veins.
While the repetitive aggressive style may end up wearing some listeners out, there’s no denying the force of “Invernal.” The album boasts an array of cool riffs and has energy to spare. Pretty rad stuff – especially for just two guys.
(Online February 20, 2012)