Cobalt - Slow Forever
Profound Lore Records
Sludge
Disc 1: 7 songs (47:03) Disc 2: 5 songs (36:50)
Release year: 2016
Profound Lore Records
Reviewed by Goat

In one of 2016’s many tragic moments, blackened experimental metal duo Cobalt nearly broke up after Erik Wunder and Phil McSorley had a falling-out; perhaps relatively less tragic than one of the many musical legends robbed from us, but still quite a shock to those of us who, like me, loved the band. Fortunately Erik Wunder decided to continue with Cobalt, and replaced McSorley (who went off to do his own, less-PC thing in other project Recluse) with Charlie Fell, a man not without controversy himself thanks to his former project Lord Mantis’ lyrics. It wasn’t and still isn’t a change I’m happy with, mainly because I feel that McSorley was a big part of Cobalt and I’ve struggled to appreciate Lord Mantis as much as others. Fell’s screech is harder to absorb, higher in pitch than McSorley’s rasp, and the band have continued to move away away from black metal, meaning that Slow Forever is often better described as a kind of sludgy rock n roll. And this is before we get to the fact that this is a double-album, and suffers from all the usual faults of double-albums; the bloatedness, the repetition of ideas, the egotism...

Yet give Slow Forever time to get its filthy claws into you, and you’ll see that there’s plenty of the same darkness that previous albums wallowed in. The lyrics are equally as grim as before, albeit in a different way (less tortured literary legends drinking themselves to death, more crippled junkies sharing needles) and Wunder is still very much in charge of the instrumental direction, meaning more of those twisted Neurosis and Tool influences are wrapped up in the disturbing morass that is Cobalt. It’s nowhere near as dense in sound as Gin or Eater of Birds, having more of a spiritual kinship with a band like Unsane than the USBM scene as of 2016, but this is still very clearly the work of the same band. When all gears fall into place, as on the tense, harrowing Cold Breaker, then Fell’s differences are easy to ignore and the music works for itself. The album opens near-perfectly with the country twang of acoustic guitars leading into a yell and stomping interchanging riffs on Hunt the Buffalo, building to a muffled emotional explosion partway through in an almost Shining-esque fashion, leading to technical little Toolish riff and percussion interplays. It’s easy to like, and a great way to begin.

The bloatedness of Slow Forever hits almost immediately, though. Two-minute interlude Animal Law is a shuffling mix of guitar and percussion that is simply unnecessary as the following Ruiner immediately resumes the theme that Hunt the Buffalo began, sludgy riffs turning almost thrashy atop the typically intense and intricate drumwork while Fell shrieks his guts up atop it all. It’s a great track, but perhaps a little too long at over six minutes; something you could say for most of the songs here. Beast Whip is a good song with a far too long intro, a compelling centre section which mixes blackened rock a la recent Satyricon with coruscating hardcore to great effect, and a weaker outro that outstays its welcome; a better six-minute song than a nine-minute song. The same is even truer for the eleven-minute King Rust, a building intro that mixes the band’s typical Americana-strums with more of that Toolish percussion to great effect, but what follows can’t help but drag a little, as good as it would be in a smaller dose. It doesn’t help that the band are essentially sticking to the same template when writing these songs, similar-styled intros, outros, and not making the meat and gristle of the song itself different enough from the others to stand out.

A flawed double-album, then, but not one without highlights. The hardcore groovefest that slams into your consciousness on Elephant Graveyard, for instance, is a very real and equally effective bit of metal as past Cobalt outings, particularly when it switches into a near blackened punk gallop around the mid-point, then embraces the groove entirely thereafter and manages to make its repetition hypnotic. The aforementioned Cold Breaker is so effective because it is restrained and manages to build effectively across the course of its six minutes without feeling as repetitious as other songs here. It’s also a damned sight catchier, the rocking elements working very well. Perhaps restricting themselves to these and a couple of other songs and making Slow Forever a remarkably good EP rather than a lengthy double album would have been better for Cobalt, but there’s no denying that Slow Forever as an experience is quite something to entangle yourself in, and when I come to look back on it in a few years in the light of (hopeful) future Cobalt material, it may well speak in a different voice. For the moment, although this isn’t anywhere near Gin or Eater of Birds’ level I’m still very pleased to have the band back with us, and Slow Forever will be on my playlist for a long time.

Killing Songs :
Hunt the Buffalo, Ruiner, Cold Breaker, Elephant Graveyard, Slow Forever
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Cobalt that we have reviewed:
Cobalt - Gin reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
Cobalt - Landfill Breastmilk Beast (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Cobalt - Eater Of Birds reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
Cobalt - War Metal reviewed by Goat and quoted 77 / 100
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