As a reviewer and listener of progressive music, I think it is necessary to continually push oneself out of their comfort zone and to explore new sonic territory. Since I tend towards contemporary production and concise song structures, a record that defied these tropes seemed necessary. On Diaspora, Cormorant eschew modern pristine sound for old school production and fully embrace lengthy arrangements. Consider here that the four track release exceeds an hour run-time. Since their inception in 2007, the Bay Area progressive black/death metal quartet have released four records, but their fifth, Diaspora, is most certainly their most ambitious in terms of long-form song structures.
The group considers themselves a hybrid of progressive death/black metal, and the opening “Preserved in Ash” certainly prove that point. The song demonstrates some of the heaviest and fastest moments on the record, starting the album with a statement that demands attention. Here, grimy guitar tones and feedback capture the grit and intensity of Cormorant’s malevolent meanderings. However it would be careless to dismiss the doomy riffs that purvey certain sections of the track, as well as much of the rest of the record.
“Sentinel” opens with some sickening string bends and a glacial tempo that furthers the disorientation experienced at the opening of the near sixteen-minute track. The tempo unpredictably quickens at about the two minute mark, and we are welcomed to a previously unheard element on the record: singing. Where the majority of the vocals on the record are gruffly growled and unnervingly raw, the singing here provides a brief moment of melodic reprieve. Such dynamics keep these lengthy outings interesting, as later evidenced midway through the song by the incorporation of clean guitars and melodic bass lines. After a long, meandering build, the track climaxes with unexpectedly intense blast beats and raspy vocals. The third track, “The Devourer”, seems dwarfed in comparison to the leviathan tracks surrounding it, clocking in at a mere eight minutes. However, the off-kilter riffage and somewhat surprising vocal hooks make for an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
This brings us to “Migration.” At twenty-six minutes, this piece is longer than most EP’s, and is perhaps deserving of a review in itself. It is here that Cormorant best demonstrates what sets them apart from their peers: an ability to craft musical journeys, as opposed to songs. As captured in the title of the song, this is a sonic voyage – one that guides the listener through waves of acoustic guitars towards heroic guitar solos over storms of raucous riffs and blackened brutality. Such a gigantic accomplishment can hardly be described in a paragraph, but it suffices to say that “Migration” is the highlight of Diaspora.
Expanding your comfort zone as a listener is a difficult process, but releases like Diaspora make it rewarding. Outside of drum production that felt flat in some listening environments, this album is massive in every sense of the word – from gigantic riffage to towering melodic guitar harmonies and a maelstrom of grating growls alongside serene singing. The record may not be the most accessible in terms of its rawness or arrangements, but listeners with some courage to embark on the path laid out on Diaspora will find a fitting reward at its end.
Notable Tracks: “Migration”
FFO: Pallbearer, Negura Bunget, Oranssi Pazuzu