In what is likely to be my last doom review of the year, I had to go with a group that I thought best exemplified what doom was to me. Year of the Cobra fit that bill to a tee. Their sound is a mixture of the great days of epic doom metal as well as the newly emerging (at least newly emerging to me) genre of occult rock. This band’s latest release “… In the Shadows Below” is the perfect blending of my two favorite subgenres.
First of all, the music has a beat. That might sound pedantic to you but when you’ve listened to over 2oo albums in a six-month period something like that can be a godsend. Most metal has a beat, but it’s never really one that’s recognizable or stands out in any meaningful way (unless you take all the distortions out and create Kvlt Svrfer Rock, but that’s another story). In the Shadows Below has a great beat and it’s easy to really feel it. Music, especially metal, with a beat feels organic, it connects the listener with the music on a different level. It’s not really a physical level but it’s not quite an emotional level either, it’s a plane that exists somewhere in between. The beat within In the Shadows Below is easy to follow and get lost in. Given that the album heavily symbolizes the occult I think that’s very appropriate.
But there’s more than just that within the album, isn’t there always? In my search for the story beneath the music, my modus operandi, I found a tale of predator and prey. But it was not a weak versus strong that is usually the case, or a fearful versus feared. The dichotomy between the protagonist and antagonist was much stronger than that. The story takes places over many years, many eons really; each song seems to take place in a different time and place, placing a nonlinear spin on the entire album. The predator and prey do not remain static, either, nor is the protagonist always the prey. The roles shift a little in each song. When you really pay attention to it, as I always seem to do, you find a very deep, very rich background in which the story takes place. The landscapes are harsh yet lush and full of hidden life. The protagonist searches through whatever time they are in, not just for a way to defeat the antagonist but to find all the hidden life and knowledge that that world is offering them. An equal amount of importance is given to defeating the enemy as to gaining wisdom. It’s an occult rock story cliché, if that’s even a thing yet, but it’s a very valid one. Why? Wisdom, hidden knowledge, is where real power lies. Power is the ability not just to defeat one’s enemies but to defeat one’s own demons, the things that no one else can see; power is the ability to transcend even the need to defeat one’s enemies and demons. That’s exactly what the protagonist in the album does, or at least that’s how I looked at it. Looking at the story through a four dimensional storytelling lens it’s easy to believe that the protagonist is really the enemy and it is they that are lost and defeated in the end. The story telling is really top notch and the music takes on a life of its own, giving away little distinctions and nuances that artist did not originally intend
However you look at the story, the music itself is beyond reproach. I was even looking for a possible flaw in the music so as not to sound like I’m gushing over the music but I couldn’t. So I’m gonna have to gush. The bass is incredible, it’s audible and it’s complex. The duo that makes up Year of the Cobra decided to give the bass the spotlight here. It’s deep and rich, the sound is full and razor sharp. And the vocals, I don’t think I’ve heard such amazing vocals in doom outside of Messiah Marcolin himself. They are operatic yet at the same time they maintain a mysterious rock like quality. Year of the Cobra might be my random find of the year. I loved them, I listened to the entire thing all the way through twice just because I didn’t want to miss anything to write about. It’s beautifully mysterious and jam packed with some amazing music. You shouldn’t need my recommendation at this point but here it is: listen to this album!
Listen and support!