When I was saddled with West Virginia natives Cognition’s sophomore LP Procession of Thoughts, it was with the impression that I would be receiving a prog album to review. Neither I, nor the powers that be, had any indication that this was not the case. Every piece of promotional material released by the band comes with a “progressive metal” descriptor and a giant eye, one of the genre’s many stalwart symbols, graces an awkwardly framed cover which absolutely screams prog. Despite all meters pointing straight to wankery, it took me less than a minute to realize that I had been duped. Cognition is certainly not a progressive metal band. To lend the band’s false advertising a shred of credit, I’ll allow the last line of their Facebook biography to speak on my behalf: “It’s pretty scary to think Cognition are only just beginning.”
The most metal thing about Procession of Thoughts is the street light you’ll instinctively veer into at high speed if you’re unfortunate enough to be driving the first time you listen to it. Call me ignorant towards what passes as progressive music with kids these days, but tossing single-note djent breakdowns into a proverbial dumpster fire of atrocious metalcore and post-hardcore elements isn’t really what I had in mind when I picked this thing up. From the writing and performances to the production, Procession of Thoughts is a train wreck of a record even by metalcore standards. Aside from admitting that they have a pretty good drummer in their repertoire, the only positivity I can muster towards Cognition is that if you’re unfortunate enough to own a physical copy of this album, you might be able to fool your friends into believing it’s a prog record if they embarrassingly find it hidden underneath your collection of unicorn porn.
Look, I’ll readily admit to spinning Horse the Band on a semi-regular basis, and I’ll even concede that Avenged Sevenfold managed one good album. As a guy who’s not afraid to occasionally dip into metalcore schlock, I’m extremely confident in proclaiming that every single riff and melody put forth on Procession of Thoughts is utterly banal. It’s not for lack of variety, though; the band attempts to emulate the faux-machismo of A Day to Remember (“Desolation”) and the noodling guitar lines of The Fall of Troy (the predictably unsexy “Eyes Wide Shut”) and even takes a shot at Korn‘s nu-metal groove (“Limitless”), but Cognition is totally devoid of the energy and personality that made those bands even semi-listenable. At less than forty minutes, this somehow manages to feel like an epic slog.
The abysmal performances and artificial production will completely deter you if the characterless songwriting wasn’t enough. Guitars occasionally fall out of sync with the rest of the band (“We don’t use metronomes,” their bio proudly states) and the muddy, stock-distortion-setting-on-my-first-amp tone lacks any semblance of shape in the lower registers. The drums are so artificially clicky that I initially believed they were programmed, and on certain tracks they’re placed obnoxiously high in the mix without rhyme or fucking reason. And then there’s vocalist Calvin Wilson. His growls are mediocre, his shrieks are bad, and his cleans make me want to down all the bleach in the world. His wailing is worse than any whiney emo and post-hardcore vocalist I’ve ever heard, and he can’t carry a note for more than half a second without falling out of tune. Listening to this guy attempt to sing makes me hyper aware of my own finite existence, as I’d rather spend it doing literally anything else.
As music critics we possess an understanding that the greatest records consistently reward the listener with new discoveries over repeated listens. With Procession of Thoughts, Cognition has taught me that the same is true for bad records; just when I think it can’t get worse, I discover a new area where the guitars rush ahead of the tempo, or five seconds of horrendous white-boy rap that Calvin Wilson thought he could sneak in while you were still stunned from an equally terrible chorus. Cognition would easily qualify for 0.0 territory if it weren’t for Evan Michael’s solid and occasionally technical drumming which carries this corpse of an album, but alas, Procession of Thoughts narrowly misses the chance to live in infamy alongside Tetragrammacide and Project Theory. As Cognition is doomed to be forgotten, infamy might have been preferable.