Kobra and the Lotus // Kobra and the Lotus
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Good, ol’ fashioned fun.
Websites: kobraandthelotus.com | facebook.com/kobraandthelotus
Release Dates: EU: 2012.08.06 | NA: Later via Universal Records?
Metal has been doing some collective soul searching for a while. The retro-thrash and retro-death movements – along with the ever-growing vest metal movement – have been built on a longing back to the simple, the original, the true. In this push, a lot of bands have been making the claim to the true metal legacy and Kobra and the Lotus are no exception. The band’s self-titled, 2nd full length release seems marked as a throwback to classic heavy metal with a touch of German melodic thrash and power metal thrown in. To me it sounds a lot like europower but hey, with my lack of credentials who am I to say?
But you know what? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Kobra and the Lotus‘ new record is a combination of European power metal with the North American hard rock tradition. Nowhere is this more obvious than in vocalist Kobra’s performance. Her presence is similar to a blending of Geoff Tate’s early Queensrÿche material (before he became an insufferable douche) and the late Michael Grant’s material from Onward and Crescent Shield (RIP). Her trad metal style often wanders into faux arabic melodies and can be a bit far up in the mix, but is tough and convincing.
Musically, Kobra and the Lotus doesn’t wander too far astray from the tropes of the genre – but this is welcome because they’re very good at it. The songs are tightly written, pushing out no longer than 4 minutes and 40 seconds long and they also seem to draw heavily from power metal, hard rock or NWoBHM influences. Tracks like “Nyana (My Eyes),” “Welcome to My Funeral” or opener “50 Shades of Evil” draw on the Stratovarius and (old) Sonata Arctica school of heavy metal – dropping the machine gun double bass pretty much non-stop, with lightning quick guitar riffs and catchy melodies as the lever that moves the song. But there’s a more traditional hard rock thing going on here, too. Single “Forever One” starts out with a hand-clapping part and talk box that totally evokes Bon Jovi (before defaulting to europower). “My Life,” on the other hand, opens with a Killers era Iron Maiden riff if I’ve heard one – with the bass bubbling along underneath, though unfortunately not exactly Steve Harris. Hell, they even drop into a danceable groove on the otherwise-not-so-great “No Rest for the Wicked,” before dropping into thrashy German melodic metal for the chorus.
Still, for all the good and enjoyable here, there are some drawbacks. While Kobra is a great vocalist for what she does, her presence is a tad monotonous. While she doesn’t lack feel like the artless Ripper Owens, she certainly doesn’t have the dynamic presence of Huntress‘s Jill Janus or the versatality of Djerv‘s Agnete Kjølsrud or Symphony X‘s Russel Allen. Indeed, like Tate or Grant, her voice can sometimes border on grating and one wishes that she would approach the vocals with more dynamics in mind. And while the record is good and short, the last four tracks “Sanctuary,” “Lover of the Beloved,” “No Rest for the Wicked,” and “Aria of Karmika” kind of drag a bit more than I’d like. Combine that with a production that gets a bit loud and distorts some times (there’s a really weird section in “Sanctuary” where it sounds like the drums get pushed all the way to the front of the mix and the whole shit just becomes a wall of fucking noise) and things could be a bit better.
All of that said, I still dig this record quite a bit. Particularly “Nyana (My Eyes)” and “Heaven’s Veins” stand out as pummeling, fantastic power metal tracks. The great melodies, hooky guitar work and dominating vocal performance make this one of the best trad or power records I’ve heard in a long time and I have listened to this album quite a bit since I got it. It might not be Record o’ the Year territory, but I think that Kobra and the Lotus have it in ’em. Give these Canadalanders a shot, and get ready to hear a hell of a lot about this band in years to come as I believe they have been dubbed The Next Big Thing™.