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Year Of The Cobra : The Black Sun

A promisingly catchy Stoner debut from the drums and bass of Seattle duo Year Of The Cobra.

Drum'n'bass, anyone? Literally, that is, rather than some sort of Dubstep Doom: those are the instruments of choice wielded by Year Of The Cobra, aka husband and wife duo Jon and Amy - the latter also handling the vocals. 'The Black Sun' is their debut, initially self-produced, EP release, thus far only available as a download, briefly on tape and limited CD pressing; due shortly is a 10" vinyl version through DHU//Devils Child/Heavy Metal Vomit Party. I'm listening to the CD edition, presented in a simple cardfold sleeve that unfussily just offers a few production credits.

First off, those are well-deserved. If you're going to go down a minimalist and percussion-based route, it'll need some punch and clarity to get the message across, both of which are present and correct. You get every note and beat with a crisp, uncluttered distinctness that fills the soundstage far more completely than might be expected from a mere two instruments, giving a great launching point for a focus on Amy's vocal delivery. So, pretty much spot-on with the recording, mixing and mastering.

Musically, this sits in the Stoner Doom (with hints of Desert Rock) category, a bit like a stripped-down version of Sleep, with the bass doubling as rhythm and lead where necessary. The fairly relentless low-end dynamic that creates is - much like the aforementioned band's - absorbing and satisfyingly trippy, the comparatively simple individual motifs adding up to a nicely synergistic and primal grooviness. There's a dusting of cymbal and hi-hat to counterpoint the bassiness, and, of course, the vocals, which provide much of the variety between the three tracks on offer. They're unusual for a Doom setting: clean and pure, yet comparatively deep, clearly-enunciated and by turns introducing a rising or falling inflection - reminding me, more than anything, of the delivery by punky New Wave acts like Blondie (on the fast-paced and exuberant title track), or Gothic/Rock ones such as The Eden House (on the remainder). Those may not be terribly great comparisons, given the musical divergence involved, but I'm genuinely struggling to think of anything more valid within the genre (with the possible exception of hints of Windhand). Anyway, suffice it to say that they form a significant part of the overall appeal, and even manage - just - to overcome the rather unfortunately hokey lyrical homage to a wizard's staff and crisp white mane found in the opening track. The lyrics do get better, I should add, and final track 'Wasteland' is along similar, but more convincing as a result, musical lines to 'White Wizard'

For a first outing, 'The Black Sun' shows a lot of promise. I couldn't describe it as groundbreaking originality in terms of musical direction, and it is somewhat on the brief side for forming a fully-balanced judgement, but the carefully thought-out "less-is-more" execution achieves quite a lot in the presentation stakes. It's catchy, direct and free of unnecessary frippery, and - with a vibrant, almost 'studio jam' feel coming through - Year Of The Cobra clearly enjoyed making it. Can't really ask for much more than that from a band, and I recommend both taking a listen and keeping an ear out for the full-length scheduled for sometime this year.

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Reviewer's rating: 7/10


Tracklist :
1. White Wizard
2. The Black Sun
3. Wasteland

Duration : Approx. 16 minutes

Visit the Year Of The Cobra bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-01-04 by Mike Liassides
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