Glaring faults have surfaced after revisiting Cognitive‘s 2016 release Deformity. At the time of my 2016 review, I was taken aback by Deformity‘s barrage of brutal death metal merged with playful yet apt spurts of technicality. I complimented the vocal approach, too — using disgusting hyperbole I labeled vocalist Jorel Hart a monstrous vocal shapeshifter. However, upon my recent revisit, Deformity‘s mix sounds dense in an obscuring, impenetrable way, the vocals are way too forward in the mix and carry a distracting monotony at times, and the technical escapades are either too brief or twist a song into an unnatural gait. Still, moments of exciting power remain, but they’re not as prominent or convincing as when experienced in 2016. I’ve become much more jaded since then. Fast forward 24 months and Cognitive are back with Matricide, their third full-length. Drastic changes have been made: vocal shapeshifter Jorel Hart has shapeshifted into an incorporeal void. He is no more. Shane Jost leads the vocal approach now. Mike Castro is gone from the drums too, replaced by Armen Koroghlian, a man with very nice hair. So, what’s really changed?
A fair bit. Matricide is a much more diverse record. Less brutal monotony is present. Slams are a still a-slammin’, but they’re integrated with a brief pomposity which serves songs well. Cognitive approach the brutal end of the spectrum with wider brushstrokes on Matricide. Conventional, brief and direct tracks transition into tracks of much more diverse melodic proportions into tracks of wild and wacky impulsive technicality. Actually, this usually all occurs in one track. Linking individual strikes into a winning combo is key; Cognitive belong to a genre obsessed with creating and delivering the most devastating whirlwind of kicks, punches, elbows, and knees in the form of blasts, slams, chugs, and grooves. In order to succeed, these combinations must be fluid, timed well and momentum maintaining.
Fifth track “With Reckless Abandon” is the best example of the aforementioned fluidity and momentum. At just under three minutes long Cognitive cram a lot in, yet everything fits. Tumbling grooves of the punky grind variety spill into a cesspit of deep cranking slams which in turn spills into a splattering of robotic technicality. These three elements merge as the song moves into an ending of straight-forward swirling brutality. Lengthier tracks like the five-and-a-half minute “Clouds of Rust” carry a much more ominous zeal, staggering through the motions with menacing composure rather than surging at the listener and spewing out its innards at breakneck speed. Here, Cognitive demonstrate their proficient ability at creating a mood and atmosphere which complements their technical abilities. In terms of scope, Matricide is vaster. Add to this the cleaner, much more professional sounding mix and you’ve got something which veers away from Deformity while retaining the core brutality. Songs don’t all mush into one.
Vocalist Shane Jost has a diverse range — his background in deathcore is apparent but tamed and shaped to fit the death metal roots of the band. Hyena-like snarls sear fleetingly and powerfully through breakdowns in songs like the catchy opener “Omnicide” and the brief cascading track “False Profit.” Deep, richer growls and snarls are at the core of most songs, but the way Jost paces his delivery — transitioning from long drawling growls into sharp gargling flurries — adds depth and memorability to songs. Instrumentally, Cognitive have made promising leaps. Penultimate track “Torn From The Void” combines progressive and melodic leanings with brutal tendencies with astuteness. It’s an epic “closer” which carries a greater melodic sheen, builds momentum well and integrates cleaner vocal snarls of the Travis Ryan variety to powerful effect.
There are minor negatives: The opening of “Fragmented Perception” leans way too much towards the deathcore spectrum for my liking. The one-tone slams are worsened by light guitar melodies and weak higher pitched snarls. Openers “Omnicide” and “Architect of Misery” are good, but when held against the rest of the album let things down slightly. On the whole, Matricide is an improvement on Deformity. Strangely, unlike Deformity, I disliked this record on a first listen. However, after giving it time to stew — and leaving it for a week — it has grown on me and nothing stands out as glaringly offensive or poorly executed.