C.B Murdoc - Here Be Dragons CoverC.B. Murdoc‘s claim to fame, as anyone who has heard of them will tell you, is that Tomas Haake called them cool once. And they’re cool in a groovy, idiosyncratic way, as telegraphed by their grungy ’50s bop album artwork both here and on their Spinefarm-released debut, The Green. But cool doesn’t get you very far with a guy who cares not for Deafheaven and ignored the mirrored-aviators-wearing shenanigans of the last Shining album. Kronos may not be cool, but he is more brutal than you, and Here Be Dragons is just about brutal enough for him.

It’s hard to say exactly what Here Be Dragons is, and the opener “Debt of Guilt” doesn’t help place the band. Striking an unlikely juxtaposition between Isis and Amorphis1, it most resembles a deep-fried Meshuggah album closer with wistful, almost spoken lyrics and does a damn fine job throwing you off the trail for the rest of the album. Upon its cessation “Brood and Roaring Fires” stampedes off immediately, with heavily distorted but – gasp – unabashedly major-key riffing, playing off a ton of tapping with major groove. While it’s a bit disorienting at first, “Brood and Roaring Fires” turns out to be a pretty killer song suffused with a subtle progressiveness, one that’s ever-present in Here Be Dragons.

“The Green” and “Diamonds” keep things moving through the middle of the album with simple but interesting arpeggiated leads that serve as a sort of reductionist form of melody. They produce some harmonic interest over riffs that are often built of low-end chugging and tight snare and tom accents, but never become comfortable. “Diamonds” ends with the lead falling apart over an improvised accompaniment that recalls Meshuggah‘s “Elastic.” The very-not-brutally-titled “Everything is Going to be Okay”2 follows with an even more Chaosphere-esque riff that sounds like a V8 failing to turn over on an icy Swedish morning, and “Dither” continues the clever strangeness with its titular use of downsampled-to-shit electronic tones.

CB Murdoc band 2016

The biggest weaknesses of Here Be Dragons turn out to be synonymous with its greatest strengths. It’s a weird album, for sure, but it’s weird in a weird way, and unless you pay close attention to it, that weirdness can come off as a lack of finesse or good ideas – which it certainly is not wanting for. The performances on this album are subtly skillful, especially Carl-Gustaf Bäckström’s drumming, which pairs the grooviness of Haake with a hint of energy from Converge‘s Ben Koller. Like the rest of the album, it’s not flashy, but its subtle technicality becomes more and more obvious as the album goes on, ending in the feedback-and-noise-overlaid drum solo of “11.”

This is an album very focused on exploring and expanding on the sound that C.B. Murdoc tried out with some success in The Green, a sort of progressive metal that’s not like other progressive metal. It’s something of an anachronism, hearkening back to just before Djent really took off and bands like Car Bomb and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza were making irreverent tech metal with thick distortion and few rules. Both The Green and Here Be Dragons slide C.B. Murdoc into the interesting but largely unexplored style – though it’s a style not without other modern practitioners, as Fronteirer‘s Orange Mathematics from last year demonstrates. And to the end of exploration, Here Be Dragons proves both effective, and of course, aptly titled.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR:  6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: ViciSolum Productions
 Websites: facebook.com/cbmurdoc
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2016

Show 2 footnotes

  1. There’s one you haven’t heard before.
  2. Spoiler alert: no it’s not.
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  • Paul Stella II

    Woah, Tomas Haake is correct; they are cool!

    • Tomas Haake is the metronome of cool as it seems…

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        I am fairly certain the metronome is inspired by Mr Haake’s live performances

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      That Tomas Haake plug is even listed on their Metal Archives entry… Maybe their next album could be titled “Tomas Haake thinks we’re Cool” with a cover featuring a purple or green monochrome picture of Tomas Haake.

  • [not a Dr]

    Wether everything will actually turn out OK or not, the embedded track made me happy.

    • Innit Bartender

      I knew it! You are Happy Metal Guy!

      • [not a Dr]

        It made me “happy”, not “Happy”. Are you accusing me of White Wizzardry?

        • Innit Bartender

          Such grave accusations lightly I maketh not, Sire!

  • Kronos

    Readers, check out that Frontierer album of you like this. It’s pretty killer.

    • Dethjesta

      Quite like the sound of this – will be checking it out in more detail.

      Frontierer – Orange Mathematics is savage. A superb choice when the need to be bombarded by an angry wave of sonic music arises.

    • [not a Dr]

      I may be a picky princess, but the vocals on Frontierer are just a bit too loud. It’s still enjoyable, but I like C.B. Murdoc better.

  • Deliverance

    I’m sorry, but something about the embedded song really stirs my drink. Thanks for turning me on to these guys!

  • JL

    This is a sick album. So much groove. Heavy as shit. I am really impressed. Year end list for sure…but not number one. That has to be Schammasch, who put out an other wordly, godlike album in Triangle.

  • You wot m8?

    This is ‘aight…

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Holy shit I just found out this band is made up of former mebers of Mörk Gryning! These two bands could hardly be more different from each other…

    By the way I am talking about this Mörk Gryning

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Not this Mork Grinning

      • Name’s Dalton

        Nanu Na-no..?

    • Really?! Interesting. The last Mörk Gryning release is one of my favourite records, insanely awesome prog black metal with a snare drum that sound like an anvil. so I can sort of believe they’ve gone onto this sort of proggy stuff…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        The snare sounds like an anvil? That alone makes jme want to check it out.

  • Ein Sophistry

    Damn near passed over this on the basis of the band name and cover art. Album title got me juuuuust curious enough to read the review (I’m a hopeless sucker for all things draconic), and I’m damned glad I did. This slays. Kudos!

  • ElectricEye

    Most interesting metal I have heard in months. But, c’mon, it needs a badass fire-breathing dragon on the cover.

  • Bart the Repairman

    I have no idea what’s going on with the tempo here, but it’s uncomfortably fascinating.

  • Chris

    Badass album. I personally enjoy the fact the album name, art, and track names aren’t “metal”. Great stuff.

  • Requiem

    There was an earthquake the instant the embedded track hit its first bizarre synthy interlude.

    That sounds like a joke. I’m not shitting you. It occurred around 15:36 New Zealand time. This country has had over 500 of these over the past several months, a good portion of which measured as ‘strong’ or ‘severe’ on geonet. Thank fuck I’m leaving in a month.

    Oh, the music is good too. This hits that sweet spot of ‘avante-garde enough to be interesting, heavy and cool enough to be entertaining’ for me.

  • Apple Tree