Being a progressive band worth listening to brings two challenges. First, the band must be willing to explore and weave different styles together in a compelling way. Second and perhaps most importantly, the sound should still be tethered to some recognizable form that audiences can use to relate to the music. The music can’t just be a way to make listeners go: “Oh wow, this is so weird and random, that means it’s innovative! I have such sophisticated and cutting-edge taste!”
If it’s up to experimental and open-minded bands to take metal into the future, then that future is bright in the hands of California’s Cormorant. While the band takes the listener to the lands of prog and hard rock, the vehicle is still one designed for death and black metal. Additionally, the band has gained a fantastic reputation and following while remaining independent of any record labels. Their latest album, Diaspora, comes out today. Check it out at their Bandcamp page!
But in the meantime, here’s what guitarist (and Decibel contributor) Matt Solis had to say about the band’s mission with this album:
Any time we write new music, our main goal is to write riffs and arrangements that are interesting to hear and challenging to play, but beyond that, we’re always looking to explore new sonic territory and expand the overall sound of Cormorant. That’s a byproduct of having four writers in the band—we each have our own concept of what makes music “interesting,” so when we get together to create these songs, we pay a lot of attention to dynamics and subtleties in order to keep things moving in an exciting direction.
For Diaspora, what excited us most was the concept of long-form composition. We’ve always had long songs, but this album has the two longest songs we’ve ever written. “Migration,” the 26-minute closer, was actually the first song we wrote for the album. As is was coming together, we kept adding sections that built on themes introduced earlier in the song, and as it inched closer to 20 minutes, we made the decision to just take it as far as we could. We were really intrigued by the notion of crafting a song that’s a true journey, with narrative ebbs and flows in the vein of Rush’s 2112 or Yes’ Close to the Edge. Personally, I love music that rewards repeated, active listening, and that’s definitely something we set out to accomplish on this album.
As for the album’s Dalí/Bosch-esque artwork:
The artwork is by Jeff Christensen, a visionary artist from Utah who works in the oil paint medium. We first came across Jeff’s work on Ur Draugr’s The Wretched Aesthetic and were blown away by his surreal style—unsettling, visceral and hauntingly beautiful all at once. We reached out and told him about our “migration” concept, and he was immediately on board. We actually gave him more creative control than we have on previous albums because we trusted his vision and were confident he’d come up with something incredible, which he absolutely did. The first draft he sent us was only about half painted, but we instantly knew it was the right direction and just let him take over from there.
It’s interesting, there’s a lot of synergy happening with the art that wasn’t planned. For example, Jeff included a prominent volcano in his painting without knowing “Preserved in Ash” is about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, as that song was written late in the process and didn’t have lyrics when we sent him the demos. I definitely recommend looking at all four panels of the artwork while listening to the album—it lends certain colors to the songs that change the dynamic and enhance the experience.
You can check out “Preserved in Ash” below: