Cormorant – Diaspora (2017) REVIEW

“Aeons pass before his eyes
As generations turn to mist
A seer rooted to the clay
Prophesied to preexist”

What causes civilizations to scatter away from their point of origin? Oppression, failures, mistakes, blights, and the hope of newer and better things. When does a culture integrate itself and fully become lost as a mere influence upon their new host? For a Bay Area progressive extreme metal band to venture outward, willingly absorbing the fruitful and enriching trend-thirsty world of modern black/death metal, seems to be a well calculated risk for Cormorant if ‘Diaspora’ is any indication of things to come. On their fourth full-length Cormorant¬†reach heights that eclipse the progressive intentions of fellow underground extreme metal bands across the spectrum. They’ve out-paced the adventurous meandering evolution of Thy Catafalque, who remain fantastically inconsistent, and relish in surpassing the slow-churn of Spectral Lore’s edge towards progressive notions. It is as if ‘Diaspora’ re-envisions the earlier god-like The Ruins of Beverast‘s darkened intentions towards atmospheric black metal before their current death/doom reliance and takes their own turns dipping alternately into pensive prog-rock influenced post-metal.

Diaspora is an album of four distinct, guitar-lead experiences that defy genre-specificity as each contains jam-like phases of focus that build to exceptional moments of release. The compositions are confident and often downright pleasant in their occasional calmer mid 70’s prog respite, but the inevitable post-metal builds give way to bigger, muscly riffs when given time. Progressive rock influences are often hard to stomach in extreme metal, they’re often so forced and pointless, and while they do obviously touch upon that territory here the band tastefully transcends previous progressive intentions. That isn’t to say that the average Opeth fan won’t find a lot to dig into here, they will. “Preserved in Ash” perfectly sums up the corporeal transcendence beyond the lackluster songwriting of the previous album ‘Earth Diver’, which frankly just didn’t live up to the near perfect balance of black/death and proggy direction of ‘Dwellings’. For the band to correct course and carry on from where ‘Dwellings’ excelled shows an impressive ability to edit and evolve towards their musical strengths. Those strengths aren’t in loud-quiet-loud silliness, or Mastodon-like vocal experiments, but rather in the folksy stream-of-consciousness they’re able to build over the course of longer tracks.

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Photo by Meghan Duffey (www.duffeykphoto.com)

Any single track on ‘Diaspora’ could compare to entire albums from bands like Aeternus (see: ‘…And So the Night Became’). I love how such a self-indulgent album can avoid feeling that way to the listener. Sure it is grandiose and pompous in it’s quieter moments, but there is steadfast focus on menacing, heavy extreme metal that was missing on the previous record. There is an evil, riffing side to the album despite how overblown and expressive it is and a guy like me appreciates the metal “edge” returning. The clean vocals are handled in a way that avoids cheese entirely, though “Migrations” is a little fluffy, and allows for equal focus on the adventurous guitar theatrics. I will say the drumming takes a backseat in the mix. While his kit still sounds spacious and ‘big enough’ a bit more clarity would showcase some very nice fills throughout the middle two tracks. I’m excited to return as a Cormorant fan after ‘Earth Diver’ felt like a boring shit-fart in my cereal, and this might be the best black metal adjacent release in a year that can’t stop jamming great shit down my throat. Also, this band is three for three on great cover artwork. If you like proggy stuff that is extreme black/death half the time then run towards ‘Diaspora’.

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Wizardry. 4.0/5.0