In 2014, following the establishment of 2009’s Gin as a modern black metal classic, Cobalt multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder axed his co-conspirator, vocalist Phil McSorley, after a series of misogynistic online outbursts.
What made Wunder and McSorley such an impressive duo was their instinctive ability to tap into the reptilian brain, the primal nature of man, and do so in a very cerebral manner, much like the iconoclasts they were inspired by – Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway. So from an artistic and personal perspective, given the intense chemistry that existed between the pair, this was undoubtedly a tough decision for Wunder.
Nevertheless, the recent addition of ex-Lord Mantis anarchist Charlie Fell – a man not without publicised controversies of his own – for Cobalt’s fourth album, Slow Forever, has proven to be a seamless transition, since both he and Wunder feed off similar neuroses. From the very first listen it’s apparent that Fell is not a hired gun in Cobalt; he’s the damn bullet to the brain, and the horrific bloody aftermath. Fell’s toxic self-hatred and disgust for humanity further intensifies Wunder’s inventive, impactful instrumentals, which have developed significantly since Gin, to make the double album’s 12 songs stand as one singular totem. Yet from the dark-hearted Americana sludge of Hunt The Buffalo to the predatory Beast Whip and onward to the barbarous hooks of Elephant Graveyard, the black metal wrath of Final Will and the eternally bleak title track, each song remains individualistic and animalistic when isolated from the pack.
This high level of songcraft speaks of the considerable time Wunder took to form this unique, cursed-sky vision. And while his songwriting approach remains as nightmarishly graphic and manifestly violent as it was on the 2007 breakout Eater Of Birds, the impervious structures and the dimensions of each brimstone-carved riff and rhythm continue to become more refined, almost Tool-esque.
A perverse beauty is also found in the resulting sludge, crust-punk, hardcore, thrash, American folk, and black metal alchemy. Consequently, Slow Forever is a psychotic symphony of internal/external pain and disorder, a genuinely unsettling and gripping piece of art destined to set to shake the very core of extreme metal.