In December 2011, the epic-minded progressive black-metal band Cormorant released their sophomore LP, Dwellings, a towering work met with gushing praise, most notably from NPR’s Lars Gotrich, who called it “far and away the best metal album of 2011.” But less than 12 months later, frontman/bassist/lyricist Arthur von Nagel parted ways with the band — amicably — in order to work full-time on The Walking Dead video-game series (!). The absence of von Nagel suggested an uncertain future for the Bay Area band. As Metalsucks put it when first reporting the story, “Cormorant Leaves Cormorant.” Indeed, to the outside world, von Nagel appeared to be the creative force behind Cormorant. But rather than take a break to regroup, the three remaining members of the band — guitarists Nick Cohon and Matt Solis, and drummer Brennan Kunkel — insisted they would continue without interruption. As they offered in a statement last November:
Obviously a replacement will be announced in the coming months, but for now, we feel strong and confident as a trio and are enjoying writing some of the best music we’ve ever written.
Cormorant has always been (and will always be) a collective effort between the musicians involved. The band started as a 3-piece, then evolved to a 4-piece, and now it’s time for the third incarnation. Will Cormorant sound different now that our former vocalist/bassist/lyricist is no longer involved? Unquestionably. But our music has always been based on consistent progression, and the future will be no different.
There are plenty of reasons to view such claims with suspicion, but I’ve heard the band’s soon-to-be-released third album, Earth Diver — their first with new bassist/vocalist Marcus Luscombe — and it’s absolutely worthy of the Cormorant name, and may even be superior to Dwellings. Luscombe doesn’t try to mimic von Nagel, and I think the new singer has a richer, harder-hitting voice than his predecessor. Like all Cormorant’s past work, instrumentally and structurally, these songs are intricate and massive, with ever-building momentum and bold flourishes of melody. We’ve got a track from the new one for you to check out today, called “Waking Sleep,” and it’s simply stunning, building from icy Opeth-ian grace to a blistering riff-slaughter worthy of the last Darkthrone record, and hitting many stops in between, somehow managing to make all these disparate textures naturally flow into one another. Listen to it below, and once you’ve done that, I encourage you to donate a few bucks to the band’s Indiegogo campaign, which ends in five days, and which exists to “help ease the financial difficulty of creating the album as we have always done: 100% independently. All the funding will go toward tracking, mixing, mastering, awesome artwork and cool merchandise.” It’s a worthy cause. Listen to the music; I think you’ll agree.