Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Job for a Cowboy - Demonocracy (2012)

Much has been said about Job for a Cowboy's transition from an admittedly standard deathcore style to a more technical evolution that thrust them squarely into the death metal classification. Some people seem to rue the loss of their youthful moshing simplicity, while others loathe the modern tech death stylings so much to begin with that they're even less likely to accept the band's transformation. Others can't get over how much they hate the name, how the band grew out their hair, how their t-shirts and CDs are available at their local mall, or the brand of sneakers they wear. I tend towards a general rule: if I can head to any local VFW gig on the weekend and hear a half dozen derivative bands with dull and unimaginative chug grooves and overbearing metalcore growls that were more effective in the mid 90s, yet sound EXACTLY like your music, then chances are, you will not interest me. This is the reason I didn't care for the Arizona band's earlier material (in particular the divisive Doom EP).

And this is the very SAME reason that I applaud the band's effort to challenge itself, expand its musical potential and engage in a more strenuous discourse. The path they've taken on the full length albums has been hit or miss. Genesis in 2007 was a welcome surprise, but I found the sophomore Ruination (2009) somewhat less compelling. Sure, the style the band is courting is old hat for fans of technical or brutal death and death/thrash, but I don't see how anyone could listen through this latest, Demonocracy (cheesy title) and not come away at least impressed by the sheer amount of effort placed in its architecture. Riffs, riffs and more riffs seems to be the equation Job for a Cowboy had marked upon their chalkboard, and for about 40 minutes here there is an incessant onslaught of the things, some missing the mark but others driving the point that perhaps they shouldn't be taken so lightly. If Suffocation or Cryptopsy had written this album, with their own respective vocal styles applied, you'd probably never hear the end of it...

Now, I'm not saying I love Demonocracy, or that it's some year end contender, but there are certain qualities that I just can't deny. For one, the album is completely void of the worthless, dry groove sequences that characterize so many artists in this niche. There is always something else happening, whether a lead or another guitar, or something with the drums or vocals that helps keep the music blinding and incendiary. A metric ton of faster paced guitars and blasts are woven through "Children of Deceit", "Nourishment Through Bloodshed", "Black Discharge", and, really, most of the damned album. The guitars are taut, punctual, and more acrobatic than what you'd hear on any of their earlier releases, and the leads in particular seem well plotted to blend frivolous, warped excitement with a more majestic sense of melody. Job for a Cowboy keeps the music so damned busy that the ear is always drawn towards something, whether that's the frenetic performance of the bass and guitars or the rigorous foundation laid out by Jon Rice.

The one area in which they don't really excel musically would be the vocals, but then, they keep these varied up between the louder guttural bark and the higher pitched snarls enough so they don't become monotonous, and they're mixed pretty well against the structure of the music, with a number of effects thrown here or there to complement the brute force. The intro sequences, which often involve samples or simpler guitars that tease into the more complex labyrinth of carnal riffing, are well laid, and though the album as a whole tends towards a speedier element, there is enough dynamic range here to keep the ears perked, especially on the latter half of the track list. Favorites personally would include "The Deity Misconception" which is this relentless beast of a cut which blends dense, destructive rhythms with all manner of technical, clinical chokehold riffs and more muscle than you could pack on a dozen rhinos, "Black Discharge" which thrills with some of the athletic guitars, and "Imperium Wolves" for much the same reason.

The skills here have been sharpened, the lyrics are an average if ambiguous assault on politics, economics, and the media, and the Job for a Four Year Old jock mosh left has thankfully been left behind sitting by the curb. It's undoubtedly a more complex work than either of the previous full-lengths, on par with a lot of the modern West Coast death in terms of its skill level and songwriting, but I think I'd place it just behind Genesis as far as how memorable of an impact the songs had for me. This isn't likely something that I'd find much time for in a month or two, but it's well rounded and entertaining in the meantime, and love 'em or hate 'em, there is no shortage of aspiration. So, in summary: is Demonocracy irrepressibly nostalgic, cavernous and drawn from Autopsy and Incantation worship? No. Is it the stuff of legends? No. Is it surgical, polished, proficient and promoting those similar soulless aesthetics that divide the death metal audience straight down the middle? Most assuredly. Did I just answer whether or not you'd like the record with those last three questions? You bet your ass.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (tonight this adolescent says hello to his ruination)


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