One of the perks of writing reviews is that you end up being exposed to a great number of oddities in the heavy music world. Among the pile of 700 OSDM records that come out each month (48 of which will involve Rogga), you’ll unearth little aliens that are hard to define and draw a raised eyebrow of intrigue. While Willowtip Records is undoubtedly well known to fans of brutality, Cognos has decided to live in a shroud of anonymity to release their self-titled debut, and that surely makes their PR person’s job a bit tougher. I’ll give most things labeled progressive death metal a shot and Cognos delivers an exciting album that is progressive without being proggy and death-like without really being death; weird, right? But that’s why it works.
That’s the approach all seven non-instrumental tracks take. Every song deftly balances biting heaviness against starlit atmospherics with a myriad of influential glimmers from other bands. “Pharos” has an uplifting lilt to one of its melodies that’s reminiscent of mid-era Arch Enemy and counters it with a tight rhythm and bending guitar riff that Gojira would surely applaud. The opening sequence to “Hierarch” could be a little brother to a song on Opeth’s Still Life but is cut into with a quick bit of Gigan space noise. While all these influences come in bits and bobs, the only truly steady comparison that shines through is Devin Townsend. From the vocals to the songwriting, all of Cognos has the feeling of Addicted funneled through a significantly less technical Cynic-style death lens. In fact, the primary vocals often sound like a version of Townsend doing thrash vocals. A multitude of bands poke their heads in, but Cognos never fully sounds like any one of them and retains an approach all their own.
The sequencing of the album is also a significant boon to its storytelling feel. “-“ provides an introduction followed by two tracks of growth and exploration before “Cometary’s Waltz” explodes with a speedy 90’s death metal riff, a breakdown with blistering kicks and a whirling guitar passage with emotive singing. “Light Years Coral” is a short stint of haunting female vocals that feels like the calm growth that followed the big bang before it. Then “Plenary Void” slowly builds up the heft and drive again before “Hierarch” hits the listener with some of the heaviest moments of the whole album and is promptly followed by another stretch of calm with instrumental “If Skylines Collide.” “Tririzon” opens with drawn-out notes and focuses on slower ambient stretches adding an icy layer of darkness before closer “Monolitheor” introduces a wobbly powerful doom riff leading to a mid-tempo crush colored with tremolo dramatics. Cognos ebbs and flows like a good story.
With each of the main songs in the 5:30-7:00 minute range and following similar tropes and approaches, a less attentive listen will likely have you feeling a bit of sameness in the 51-minute runtime. A nighttime stroll or sitting on the patio with a strong drink and a good pair of headphones are the ideal listening experience for this one.
A couple of snippets of guitar leads are a bit buried in the mix and could be really interesting if they were given a stronger light and more time to flourish. Similarly, if Cognos decides to dive into a longer individual song, they could really let some of those atmospheric moments stretch and subdue the listener to make the return to heft all the more powerful. The current state of these features is still engaging, but it will be interesting to see how these writers develop those elements moving forward as they spend more time together.
Regardless of any minor gripes, Cognos has created something that stands out amongst the current crowd. They’ve established a strong voice on album number one that is sure to only become more dynamic and vibrant in the future. Listen now and keep these mysterious stargazers on your radar.
This mysterious and fantastic album is one of the most idiosyncratic and unique i’ve heard. It really jolts me every time i listen to it. Is it death metal? thrash metal? progressive metal? alternative rock (Snapcase)? yes, all of these. The dual vocal styles are excellent. wow. one of the albums of the year so far.
OK, now you did it. I have to check this out today.