The `bigger is better’ approach may fly with the U.S. black metal crowd, but for the better part of a decade, Los Angeles/New York duo metal duo Black Cobra have needed only one guitar and one set of drums to make as rowdy and booming a sound as possible. Jason Landrian’s guitar has been more than loud and thunderous enough to make up for whatever they’re lacking in bass, as its wall of fuzz practically absorbs whatever space is left in each song. It’s a simple set up, but as evident on albums like 2007’s Feather and Stone, it’s proven more than enough for the duo to create some of the hardest rocking doom `n’ roll in the land.
With Chronomega, the group’s first album on Southern Lord, Black Cobra haven’t messed with a good thing. Landran and Rafael Martinez still deal heavily, pun intended, in the sludgy stuff, ripping through nine dense and kickass slabs of murky riffs and pounding rhythms. It’s all churning low end and fierce howls, but Chronomega is also a surprisingly catchy set of tunes, at times recalling the radio-friendly bubblegum doom of Torche, albeit with stronger leanings toward the likes of Electric Wizard or High on Fire. “Negative Reversal” leaps forth from the speakers like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse out on a joyride, or Two Horsemen, I suppose. “Machine” chugs with all pistons firing, the repetitive scratch of Landran’s guitars approximating heavy machinery. “Chronosphere” finds Landran jabbing his lightning riffs against a steady march, while “Lightning In His Hand” is an epic marathon of crunch.
Black Cobra aren’t necessarily rewriting the rulebook on metal, or twisting it into bizarre new territory. But as Chronomega displays quite strikingly is how adept this duo is at making such minimal elements into something that packs so bruising a punch. No synths, no acoustic interludes, no harmonized leads, just riffs, overdrive and the raw spirit of metal.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.