CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | JULY 07, 2009 7:21 AM

Straightforward death metal

Job for a Cowboy: Ruination
*** out of *****

Job for a Cowboy may seem like a strange name for a death-metal band, but it fits a group that formed under the hot sun in Glendale, Ariz., in 2003. With its second full-length studio release, Ruination, Job for a Cowboy continues to deliver extreme music that is loud, abrasive, and intense. Fans of intricate riffs and blast beats should find something to like in the album, but Job for A Cowboy isn’t breaking into uncharted death-metal territory either — Ruination plays it safe.

The group began its career playing a blend of death metal and hard-core punk that is now known as death-core. Job for a Cowboy’s EP Doom was the first and only album in the band’s career to feature vocalist Johnny Davy performing the “pig squeal” — a style of guttural death growling that sounds similar to a shrieking animal, which fans call “brees.” Since then, the band has tried to distance itself from the trendy genre by playing more straightforward death metal.

Ruination starts out strong enough with “Unfurling a Darkened Gospel” that sees the band playing at top speed. In fact, with the exception of the last track “Ruination,” the band rarely ever slows down. A little more variety would do Job for a Cowboy some good, because this album gets stale about halfway through.

The next three tracks, “Summon the Hounds,” “Constitutional Masturbation,” and “Regurgitated Disinformation,” all have technical guitar riffs written by Bobby Thompson and Al Glassman, who prove themselves to be worthy young players. Unfortunately, bass guitarist Brent Riggs sound is so low in the mix that it is hard to hear his contributions.

Although it may have been done before, anyone with a love for traditional death metal will enjoy Ruination. Hopefully, Job for a Cowboy will get more creative on the next album, because it definitely has the chops to do so.

Eric’s Picks: “Summon the Hounds,” “Constitutional Masturbation,” “Regurgitated Disinformation”

Discover Discovery’s dissonance

mp3 sample: Discovery

"Orange Shirt"

Discovery: LP
***** out of *****

The brand-new band Discovery is a collaboration between Ra Ra Riot’s Wes Miles and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, with special guests Angel Deradoorian (the Dirty Projectors) and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend). However, LP is not the poppy, guitar-driven sound listeners might expect. Full of synthesizers, 808 beats, and ambiance, the album is a headphones orgasm.

The record kicks off with “Orange Shirt,” an anthem about working things out with a lover, and it sets LP’s mood. The song showcases Discovery’s ability to create interesting, dissonant sounds — a talent illustrated throughout the entire album. One of the reasons LP is so catchy is because the members of the band understand how effectively their voices work against the sounds they’re producing. In standout track “So Insane,” the group exhibits its knowledge of the power of silence in music by leaving empty space after hard hitting beats which keep the listener curious for what will come.

Discovery also covers a few songs, the most recognizable being Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and Ra Ra Riot’s “Can You Tell?” (labeled as “Can You Discover?” on LP). The members know how to breathe new life into the songs — slowing down the tracks and adding an array of admirable and addictive beats.

What makes LP so special is the knowledge of the artists. Both Miles and Batmanglij understand how their voices work, which sounds complement them best, and how the listener will respond. No tracks on the album feel forced, or awkward, which is a common trend in electronic music.

Unlike similar albums in the same genre, Discovery’s LP bounces. There aren’t long, drawn-out synthesizers being blown into the ear so loud it’s difficult to think; instead, there is a classical, world-music feel — except with beeps and beats instead of guitars and cellos.

Scottish folk band barely cracks the surface

Broken Records

Until The Earth Begins To Part

** 1/2 out of *****

Given the intensity of frontman Jamie Sutherland’s vocals, one would think Until the Earth Begins to Part covers some greater topic, such as world peace or wars in Africa. Instead, Sutherland sings about the blowing wind, eyes red from crying, and being kept in the dark.

The title song, a dreary anthem asking someone to “forever hold [the singer’s] heart,” grates after the first minute. It is arguably the best track on the entire album.

The seven-piece band has the potential for greatness, with the complex mix of instruments — string sounds include ukulele, cello, violin (and of course, bass and acoustic guitar), accompanied by a trumpet, an accordion, and a snare-heavy drum kit. But instead of producing an original sound, Broken Records’ début album reminds the listeners of every other indie-folk group that’s come along in recent years.

Keeping in mind the band has time (and, hopefully, an American tour somewhere down the road) to grow into its musical identity, there are several wonderful bits on the album. The first track, the longest at five minutes and 31 seconds, begins with a lilting violin and picks up into a foot-tapping drum-and-tambourine duo halfway through. Ignoring the slightly pompous lyrics, it’s a bouncing good time.

One thing Broken Records has going for it, though unfortunately not heard on the album, is a stellar stage presence. Though only performing in the United Kingdom, reports of its shows — and the intensely positive audience response — tell the tale of a lyrical, dance-inspiring band whose lead vocalist remains muffled during a set. Such is not the case on the 10-track “Until the Earth Begins to Part,” but as the band matures, it is likely its sound will, too — which is enough to leave listeners with anticipation for the group’s next release.

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