Author: Bloodshot Grub
Artist: Black Cobra
Album: Imperium Simulacra
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Black Cobra is one of those bands with a consistent, distinct, and immediately identifiable vision for their music, and they deliver on it every single time, without fail. If you like your sludge fast, aggressive, and filled to the brim with outstanding riffs, you can select any one of the San Francisco duo’s five albums and find great satisfaction.
This is Black Cobra’s fifth full-length album, and I included it in the number stated above because there’s really no point in taking the traditional review approach of setting up the backstory of a consistent four-album discography and then delving into this one to “see how it measures up.” It does indeed measure up, quite admirably, and I can think of few other artists who can keep both their style and level of quality so precisely consistent.
That being the case, I think it would be fair to talk not so much about Imperium Simulacra specifically, but what a Black Cobra album delivers in general. As I mentioned, it’s a duo, with Jason Landrian on guitar and vocals and Rafael Martinez on drums. There are, with a few exceptions, only ever one of two textures going on at any given time: riff plus beat, or riff plus vocals plus beat. Occasionally you get a few measures of just the guitar, but that’s a rare break from the constant headbanging. Normally I’d complain about the lack of variety, but the riffs themselves provide more than enough. They’re not especially diverse in style, but every single one is a monster, and they are entirely sufficient to carry the music.
Which is not to say that the vocals are not also a strong contribution. Jason takes the rare approach of using effects on his vocals, a bit of delay and reverb, plus something else I can’t identify that gives his voice a slightly alien quality. The effects are subtle; Jason’s actual performance, menacing and dominating, is still doing all the heavy lifting.
Jason’s use of phrasing in his riffs gives the music a special energy. Rather than square 4’s, everything is angular and asymmetrical, and tends to shift over the mostly constant pounding provided by Rafael. It’s not taken nearly as far as you would find on a mathcore album; it’s just enough to keep things unpredictable, even as one has become more familiar with the music after a few repeated spins.
n terms of experience, Black Cobra exists along a single spectrum: that of the visceral. It’s not music to plumb the depths of human emotion. It’s not music that invites analysis and intellectual consideration. It doesn’t transport you to another place. It comes to you and proceeds to kick you around for the next forty or fifty minutes.
Listen to Black Cobra. Listen to Imperium Simulacra. Listen to Invernal and Chronomega and Of Feather and Stone and Bestial also. Listen to them all in a row, put them all on shuffle, listen to one of them over and over again. Take your pick. However you want to go about it, There Will Be Riffs and you will love every minute of it.
- Bloodshot Grub