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Cormorant – Dwellings

There’s a strain of music that I’ve always had a problem with, which is any music that can be referred to as “too European”. Do you know what I’m talking about? To me, it’s music that’s so immaculate, so devoid of punkiness and skronk, that you can actually see it shine like a waxed Porsche. That, initially, was what made me keep listening to Opeth and Cormorant on hold. Aside from the striking resemblance between Cormorant frontman Arthur Von Nagel and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt, both bands traffic in a mightily ambitious admixture of NWOBHM, prog, folk, and classic rock, with Cormorant trading Opeth’s death metal leanings for black metal ones.

The album that changed my mind about Opeth was Deliverance, and the album that changed my mind about Cormorant is Dwellings, a real statement of arrival from a shockingly young Bay Area band. First things first, you’ve never heard a production this immense and polished from any underground band, ever. Seriously, this is a gorgeous-sounding record; loud, but with some blessed room to breath dynamically.

It’s also the best example of a metal band incorporating topical and relevant lyrics since Ludicra’s The Tenant. Every thrash band I loved growing up had me looking at my watch when they tried to get TOPICAL. Cormorant, God bless ’em, manages to choke me up a few times on “Junta”. I won’t get into the subject here but there’s a great NPR piece that delves into the matter further.

So yeah, this record is not post-punky, sonically awkward, or warts-n-all in any way. It’s spit-shined, polished within an inch of its life, and stacked to the hinters with detail. It’s also honest, heavy, complex, and beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I was this impressed with a contemporary metal record this much. Oh wait, I can: it was Ludicra’s aforementioned swan song. Kudos to Cormorant for taking that spot in my heart.

— Alee Karim

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Cormorant – “Confusion of Tongues”

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Cormorant – “A Howling Dust”

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Bandcamp (Digital download)

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