Cormorant - DiasporaIf there’s one criminally underrated band whose discography I implore you to investigate, it’s surely California’s Cormorant. I sincerely rate their opening records, Metazoa and Dwellings, as among my favorites since the beginning of the new millennium. They’re unremittingly progressive, drawing influences from all manner of music since the ’70s, but tie it together delicately and emotively, all the while never ignoring the immense power of the riff. I’m such a fanboy that this happened a little while back. I regard Earth Diver as a step down from their amazing beginning but it remains a worthwhile album for fans seeking their work with a slightly harsher tone. I eagerly anticipated 2017’s Diaspora to examine their detailed musical tapestries, especially given the constant progression Cormorant seek.

It’s always been tough to pin Cormorant within neat genre tags but they’ve historically been highly progressive metal assimilating black, death and thrash influences. This remains true, though the thrashier parts have been phased out and replaced by a healthy vein of doom. It’s a prominent addition; first rearing its head around the 3:45 mark of opener, “Preserved in Ash,” fat chords and crushing percussion slow the tempo and actually surprised me. That a band always characterized by progression and diversity can still do so is a testament to the continuous musical journey undertaken, never satisfied or settling in one spot. The transition into the heavy passage at the start of “Migration” also demonstrates this facet with a huge riff and unearthly growls.

One quality which is consistent across their discography is the knack for excellent riffs. The innate and uncanny ability to write riffs which are simultaneously simple and rocking but also intricate and technical is one of Cormorant‘s great strengths and that holds true here. Diaspora is littered with great passages, such as the groovy introduction to “Sentinel” followed by the switch to speedy and horn–throwable chugs, and the melodic, shreddy guitar lead at 3:40 on “The Devourer” which feels as near as the record reaches to Metazoa or Dwellings. The duality of the simple and the subtle is why Cormorant is great, lending replay value as neat folds and musical crevices become apparent over repeated listens.

It’s also notable that Diaspora features but four tracks, the fewest written for any of their records. Nonetheless, it still runs a shade over 60 minutes, with “Migration” tracking a lengthy 26 minutes. Alarm bells immediately rang when I saw this but I was also aware that if any band could execute this without disappearing too far up their own asses, it would be Cormorant. I’m pleased to report that my concerns were unfounded and the boundless dynamism and maturity embedded in the songwriting confound any repetition or boredom. It’s a million miles from unfocused but features sufficient fluctuation in style and tempo to ensure engagement and show off the exemplary riffcraft. It’s worth commenting that Diaspora may be their least accessible album given its relative heaviness and lengthy tracks but it definitely deserves your time.

Cormorant 2017

And yet, I still find myself yearning for a little more of what made Metazoa and Dwellings so special for me. I’m unsure if it’s the loss of Arthur von Nagel following Dwellings, whose contributions to the songwriting were substantial, but I find the ethereal beauty permeating the quieter passages noticeably absent. The quieter parts are still soothing, satisfying inhales but aren’t quite so transcendent as previously. It’s also unprecedented that they’re hedged into two long spaces on Diaspora, unlike their seamless integration across prior records. Found for five minutes in “Sentinel” and ten minutes in “Migration,” their roots truly embed given their durations but I consider that the seamless style formerly favored rendered that music more cohesive.

Nevertheless, Diaspora is an accomplished record by one of my favorite bands who seem incapable of producing anything less than stellar. It satiates any desires for dynamic metal and spits on genre boundaries and sub-par musicianship. Riffy and heavy yet subtle and proggy, Cormorant are the archetypal characterization of music which inherently appeals to me through careful use of dualities. While lacking some of their initial magic, it’s better than Earth Diver as it’s more thoroughly engaging. They remain a testament to DIY metal which is mature and professional even without a label’s interference. Kudos, chaps.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: cormorant.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/cormorant
Releases worldwide: August 11th, 2017

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  • Anarchist

    I didn’t even realize they had a new album coming.

    I own their whole discography and it’s 100% worth buying hard copies of just for that sweet artwork. Can’t wait to dive into this!

    • Eli Valcik

      Yeah, Drwelling’s artwork is sick

  • Planex

    New contender for most prog album cover this year?

    • Planex

      This embedded track is exactly what I like in my metal. It’s earned a purchase from me when this comes out. Time to dig through their back catalog!

  • metalcasket

    Cormorant and I have quite the bit of history. Arthur von Nagel’s even written online about the troubles I’ve had getting both Metazoa and Dwellings from the States over to Lebanon way back when. He was a huge reason why I was so supportive of the band, but even with him gone I’ll always love the band. To the fucking death. Stings a little bit to think this isn’t quite as good as their older stuff, but I can’t wait to throw a few bucks their way…if only they would put up a damn pre-order for a digital album-only version on Bandcamp!

    • chatham

      And it’s $20.99 for the cd!

      • Name’s Dalton

        Bargain!

  • The Lascivious Snape

    Crazy talented band right here. I too miss the melody, beauty and spirit of Metazoa, which I’m not convinced they’ll ever top, but I like what I’ve heard from this album so far.

    Do the songs have endings? That’s been one of the weirdest and most frustrating things about Dwellings and Earth Diver. The songs just kind of … end, often suddenly. I think I remember reading either Arthur or Nick saying around the time of Dwelling’s release that it was a conscious decision after Metazoa’s often dragged out codas (which I loved), but I could never get on board with it. Songs felt incomplete at any length.

    This is definitely a band to whip out when you’re looking to impress a new prog friend.

  • Hammersmith

    What is this artwork? It looks like one of the murals from Parks and Rec.

  • I had to stop reading and write how I adore this Dali-meets-Bosch cover art.

    • Eli Valcik

      Im a sucker for any album art in the theme of the Old Masters…. And Gustav Dore.

    • John Mosley

      Spot on.

  • wayne the devil

    Up until I read this, I had no idea who these guys were. Now I do, and rather than feel sheepish or inadequate because I’ve overlooked them, I can now spend the rest of the week listening to Their back catalogue. They are the shit. Great review. AMG magic strikes again..

  • Metal and Hockey

    This is my most anticipated release of the year. Just got an email today that its on the way to me. Loved Earth Diver but Dwellings up until this point is their masterpiece. Unearthly Dreamings is as good as metal gets. I haven’t listened to the 2 songs available yet. Want to experience the album as a whole

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    I am currently swimming the depthless pools of Temple of Void, Aoria and A Swarm of the Sun. Once I surface I will need to check this out.

    • Do you need a hug? I think you need a hug. And a cookie.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Both please…..

        • Master of Muppets

          Soon, my child. There is fun to be had on the horizon, but for now there will be no happiness. Enjoy of deep sadness, yo.

      • Master of Muppets

        There will be no hugs! Emotions are not to be dealt with, you bury that shit and turn it into an impending cardiac event like an adult!

        I guess I do vaguely understand the dilemma, but I love far too much melancholic metal for my emotions to matter or make me migrate to more merry music.

        I may have Myrkur’s most modern masterpiece on my mind (and in my ears) at the moment.

      • Dave Shellenberger

        If they don’t want that cookie, I’ll take it.

        • Cookies are gone, but hugs are still available!

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Is there a new Aoria? It’s been awhile since The Constant. Bro hug on the Temple of Void. http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6b30f26f337990292453294af6143c810d14ca6e1f91e3ae8053b2dcdc650971.jpg

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        No new Aoria, I just rediscovered The Constant.
        Bro hug appreciated.

    • AgonMcDuck

      A Swarm of the Sun’s last record was a serious downer–not that it was bad, but it really made me feel things I hadn’t in a while. I needed a hug after that one, for sure. Hope you are well, or if not, that things get better.

      Also, Cormorant is seriously good shit. I still love the hell out of Metazoa, but yeah, not a single bad record to their name.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        ASOTS is very good ……I liken them to the last Cult of Luna (minus the harsh vocals). It’s an emotional listen for sure.
        Cormorant will be a nice pick me up lol

    • John Mosley

      How about that new Father Befouled?

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Haven’t given it a spin yet.
        I’ll check it out.

  • Eli Valcik

    On the topic of favorite underated bands. My favorite would have to be Shroud Of Despondency, some of the best BM ever. (Especially their album Family Tomb.)

  • PretentiousFuckwad

    Emotive death metal? What is this blasphemy?

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      This is Cormorant, Blasphemy is War Metal! ;)

  • jjohn

    The ending of Unearthly Dreamings is one of my favourite musical moments, I think.

    That being said, Earth Diver did not really manage to draw me in, so I hope this one will do a better job. It does sound better, but we’ll see.

    First post in the community btw!

    • Name’s Dalton

      Welcome!

    • Master of Muppets

      This is the only comment section worth visiting on the interwebz, you made the right choice.

    • El_Cuervo

      Welcome friend! We appreciate your readership. And while I love that track too, it’s all about Junta to The Howling Dust from Dwellings for me. So so so so so so so so so so good.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    This is some shit I can get behind.

  • Mollusc

    That Dwellings cover art works well as a tattoo.

  • SoLeftISeeRight

    Well written review. Captured the essence of a band that can be hard to describe. I quite like the doom elements incorporated into this album, it really illuminates what strong riffs they write. Soothing is definitely the apt word for the quiet parts, but a little too much so for me, as I found myself drifting off a little. It lacks the engagement you lamented of earlier records in those parts. Amazing cover art as usual.

    • El_Cuervo

      Yeah I think this is where the 3.5 comes from, rather than a 4. The soft bits aren’t as amazing.

  • Twisted Metal

    Perfectly divine!

  • Nate Sweet

    Love it! Embedded track strongly reminds me of Locust Leaves at times but less janky in general

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Hey Cuervo, kudos to you for writing a whole review without name-dropping a single band other than the one being reviewed!

    • euthanatos

      that’s a really good point. And it’s usually something that bothers me, because I do like to have some references, but it was so well-written that I eagerly went to check out the band, and holy shit, these guys are good.

    • El_Cuervo

      It’s easy to name-drop stuff but I prefer not to unless a band REALLY sounds like another. Cormorant have such a mixed sound that I don’t think it does them or their comparisons much justice to do so.

  • Monsterth Goatom
  • Mr T

    So far I’m liking it. Not missing the tone of the solos in the older records. This sounds way better.

    • Mr T

      I hate it that you guys did not tell me Earth Diver was out. Lame.

  • Sean Sky

    Sick! I didn’t realize they had a new one coming out! I got obsessed with Metazoa earlier this year.

  • Master of Muppets

    I’m backed up with albums to the point that I’m still Earth Diving, I really really really really really want to dig into this but I’m concerned I’ll get trapped here and end up de-prioritizing everything else. It’s almost not fair to other bands that Cormorant make music.

    • El_Cuervo

      Yeah. This isn’t as good as the first 2 records but I’d still take it above most other stuff being made right now.

  • Jeff Manteiga

    I loooove this band, can’t wait for my preorder! Unhealthily obsessed with the three LPs they have out…can’t wait to hear “Migration.”

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Oh boy.
    I went and grabbed Metazoa for shits and giggles and I am mightily impressed.
    These guys are all over the map in a very good way.
    Lots to get my head around but I like the ebb and flow.
    Kinda what I hoped Opeth would be doing right now…..

  • Alex

    If anyone hasn’t listened to metazoa from these guys stop what you’re doing right now and listen to that entire album. It really is gold.

  • Unfathomable Procrastination

    I doubt there has ever been more good new music found through reading one thread. You guys rule, thank you!!!

  • TheCurlyMetalhead

    Well, AMG magic at it again, never heard of them before and I’m digging this, thanks once again for showing all these awesome bands!

  • WhamBamSam

    This sort of wacky prog cover always me of Spivak’s Differential Geometry textbook. http://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51EKdH8E46L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

    Hadn’t heard of these guys before. Not bad at all, though it sounds as though I’ll like their older stuff better.

    • AgonMcDuck

      HAHAHA this book

      (I’m a mathematics PhD student, so I’m familiar with this text XDDD)

      • WhamBamSam

        Same, though I actually had it used in an undergrad honors course. My qual course in grad school on the subject mercifully used something else.

        • We dealt with some topics of this book in an undergraduate level in my university, introduction to manifolds etc.Never thought i would see something like this in a comment section about a metal album.

  • ssorg

    Oooh… I like this. It’s like a proggy Horrendous…. at times. How are the other albums? Any recs?

    • El_Cuervo

      If you want specific tracks to pick out, I’d say Hanging Gardens from Metazoa and Junta / The Howling Dust from Dwellings. But both are amazing as entire albums.

  • Gary Filson

    There best album is The Last Tree, gripping, innovative and way ahead of it’s time. They’re trying to do too much here imo.

  • Metal and Hockey

    After listening to this non stop for the last 3 days it’s easily my favorite album of the year

  • Yolo Swaggins

    I’m coming back to this review because now that I’ve listened to the album multiple times; I can say confidently that this is my favorite Cormorant album. While initially daunting, it is simply a masterpiece throughout the entire listen.