Cormorant: Dwellings (2011)

I think I came across Cormorant and Dwellings in particular during my search for anything that sounded remotely like Opeth.  I probably saw the comparison made in an old issue of Decibel (though they’re far from the only ones who made that comparison) and stumbled across the Bandcamp link during a search.   A completely DIY affair, the San Francisco natives do a great job incorporating so many different elements (yeah, kinda like Opeth) in a way that feels natural and seamless in execution.  I’d go so far as to say they manage an excitement – especially in the raw but beautiful production – that Opeth lost by the time of Watershed.

Opener “The First Man” is a template for everything to follow, moving through thrash and death to folk and aspects of doom.  But “Funambulist” is where it’s really at.  Cormorant hit that 70s progressive slant head on, with great solos, mellow interludes, and passages that feel right out of what bands like Pallbearer are doing nowadays.  It’s a 10-minute song that never lags, always reaching and stretching toward new avenues of expression.  “Confusion of Tongues” moves into some odd-time, syncopated riffs before blasting into melodic thrash and NWOBHM elements.  On the second half of the album each song from the punchy “The Purest Land” to the epic closing of “Unearthly Dreamings” runs the gamut of styles and influences while maintaining a singular identity.

That identity and purpose is not only due to the music, but to the lyric and vocal performance of Arthur von Nagel (who also plays bass).  While the whole of Dwellings deals with structures – both physical and otherwise – build by humanity there’s a ton of room for exploration.  aforementioned “Funambulist” is about Phillipe Petit, the subject of Man on Wire.  The massive doom evocation of “Junta” is about the violence perpetrated on women during the military crackdown of a pro-democracy rally in Guinea. Von Nagel’s voice captures the pain and despondency in the songs, and together with the rest of the band craft a vivid and sprawling epic of an album.

Do the comparisons to Opeth really apply?  Well, only insofar as they both (in different ways) approach a blending of diverse influences into lengthy sonic missiles.  It doesn’t really matter: as long as it got me (or you) to check out Dwellings and how good it is I don’t care what you compare it to.  I’m just glad I found it.


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