Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Job For A Cowboy - Sun Eater (Album Review)

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 11/11/2014
Label: Metal Blade Records

‘Sun Eater’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

01). Eating the Visions of God
02). Sun of Nihility
03). The Stone Cross
04). The Synthetic Sea
05). A Global Shift
06). The Celestial Antidote
07). Encircled by Mirrors
08). Buried Monuments
09). Worming Nightfall

Job For A Cowboy is:

Jonny Davy | Vocals
Al Glassman | Guitar
Tony Sannicandro | Guitar
Nick Schendzielos | Bass


It only takes a few seconds of listening to ‘Sun Eater’ to realize that Job For A Cowboy have undergone drastic changes in recent years. To be honest, I hadn’t listened to them much prior to this as I was greeted with the kind of numbing deathcore—albeit paying closer homage to death metal’s history than most—when I first heard their 2005 EP ‘Doom’. Nothing released in that style has ever really appealed to me, so I never really felt a need to check them out beyond that. Imagine my surprise when I first heard ‘Sun of Nihility’ from ‘Sun Eater’, when it was first released as part of the album’s announcement. The song is highly musical, heavily prog-influenced, and in many ways a welcome antidote to so much of the tech-death and shred-obsessed metal coming out these days.

Take the aforementioned ‘Sun Nihility’ for instance. This is very much informed by Cynic, and ‘Focus’ in particular, right down to the bass tone, which sticks out for being mixed so loudly compared to ninety-nine percent of metal albums. In fact, it’s really only Cynic and Spiral Architect that spring to mind for having a production that is this bass guitar-centric. In many ways bassist Nick Schendzielos is the star of ‘Sun Eater’. He excels with a very acrobatic style, but smartly knows when to pull back and simply fill out the bottom end of a section of a song so that the guitars and in particular the excellent leads can shine.

While there is plenty of positive to say about ‘Sun Eater’, there are still issues to address, even if the bulk of the work is already done. The strong suit of this album is in riffs based around both melodic and dissonant open chords using palm muting to break things up rhythmically. The vocal style doesn’t really sit well with the music, to the point where they’re almost a distraction and hinderance rather than helpful even in a percussive or layering context. Jonny Davy’s delivery is a little on the cartoony side (see: Dani Filth) in higher registers and the deeper, guttural style is generally going to sound out of place no matter what with the band pursuing this musical direction. I’m not making a case for switching to purely melodic singing or anything like that. It just needs to feel a bit more human or natural, rather than being such a stark contrast.

There’s no doubt that this stylistic shift will have cost the band a few fans from their earlier albums, but paying that price may prove to be worth it. This newer style lends itself to greater longevity and gives Job For A Cowboy a shot at being more than another entry into an over worn, dead-end subgenre. That’s not to say that they’ve abandoned extremity entirely, or that they even should. Some of the blast-focused moments on the album offer some of its best material. What that has done is made some big strides toward being something unique and exciting, which is a rarity in prog-related music. It’s also a lot more than could ever have been said about them early in their discography. Now: the future looks bright.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.

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