Black Cobra strike with heavy thunder on ‘Invernal’

There are many good reasons to put down some cash and buy the fourth full-length effort “Invernal” from doom/sludge metal duo Black Cobra, but perhaps the best of all of them is this: It’s ridiculously heavy.

Does that sound a little redundant since this is, after all, a metal site? It might. But it shouldn’t. Sure, all metal is heavy by definition, but some groups take that to a whole different level, and these guys always have done just that. Their records are devastating, and while they might not be the most evil-sounding, the fastest, or the nastiest, they are one of the heaviest. And they accomplish such burly greatness with just guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian (formerly of Cavity) and drummer Rafael Martinez (also of Acid King), who manage to make all of this sound so effortless. It’s stunning, really, and they make it so without wowing you with technique or dorkery. They just steamroll your ass.

“Invernal” follows 2009’s “Chronomega,” which was their first effort for Southern Lord after spending time with At a Loss. I didn’t really get into the album for some reason. I didn’t dislike it either; I just never really found my place with the thing. That came as a bit of a surprise considering how much I was into their “Feather and Stone” album and how many times I played that bastard. But whatever. That did give me a bit of trepidation when I first encountered “Invernal” (recorded at God City Studios with Kurt Ballou) because I thought perhaps I’d feel the same way about this new platter. But from my first listen on, the thing grabbed me and dragged me underwater, bringing me up now and again to choke at the air.

It’s not like the band did anything different on “Invernal,” because the formula’s basically the same. Landrian’s guitars chug and truck like always, mixing doom, sludge, some black metal and thrash into the mix, and he barks away over the compositions, always equally understandable and maniacal. Martinez keeps pace and bashes everything home, proving himself one fine clobbering machine. Basically, if you’ve been with the band since the beginning or picked up anywhere along the way, you really won’t be surprised. It’s Black Cobra being Black Cobra, and it sounds pretty awesome. If you haven’t stumbled across these guys yet but dig High on Fire, Saviours and early Slayer, by all means, get on board.

So, if the band basically sounds as they did on “Chronomega,” then why is this record getting higher praise? I just like the songs and the grooves better, and I like that Landrian interjects some riffs that remind me of Death From Above 1979 such as on “Somnae Tenebrae” and “The Crimson Blade.” Both of those songs also have major stoner rock aesthetics as well, so there’s kind of a laid back assault mixed into the scene. “Avalanche” opens the album and could not be more aptly named, as they dump a mountainside of chaos on top of you with near-black metal riffing, punch and filth. “Corrosion Fields” actually opens quietly and atmospherically before it launches into a down-tuned fury, complete with some of Landrian’s shreikiest vocals; “Beyond” kicks off with some doom drone smoke that eventually morphs into a vintage thrash attack that should shame all those young upstarts who are trying to emulate their heroes; “Abyss” is a cool instrumental piece that continually changes faces from destructive to lovely; and final track “Obliteration” is just that, complete carnage packed into the album’s shortest, yet perhaps deadliest, cut.

By the way, this entire album is about a post-apocalyptic trip to nuclear-ravaged Antarctica (who ever would have thought that continent would be meltdown central?) based partially on the work of English researcher Ernest Shackleton. So while I still think you’ll come here for the weight and the thunder, you also can stick around for the adventure lurking beneath the surface.

Black Cobra is getting to hit the road with Kyuss Lives and The Sword, and without question, this duo will be the heaviest beast on the stage. In fact, since they’ll be kicking off these shows, audiences will be tone deaf by the time the main eventers arrive. I base that solely on the devastation etched into the grooves of this album (and burned into a disc) because it’s so massively pounding. You won’t even need to turn up the volume all that loudly to get that effect, but make no mistake, you shouldn’t listen to it in that manner. This isn’t gentle listening, kids, it’d designed for maximum volume, and you won’t believe how much better Black Cobra sound in that setting. Hope you don’t mind tinnitus.

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