Black Cobra Premiere “The Messenger” from Imperium Simulacra

black cobra (Photo by Raymond Ahner)

There’s just over a month left to go before Black Cobra release their fifth long-player, Imperium Simulacra. Also their first for Season of Mist, it was recorded by Jon Nunez of Torche and arrives at the decade point since the oft-nomadic San Francisco duo made their raging debut with 2006’s Bestial, and almost a full five years since their last outing, the wintry Arctic chronicle, Invernal (review here). Like its predecessor, Imperium Simulacra seems to work off a central theme, this time the more esoteric relationship between humans and technology. Social commentary is inherent in the subject matter, but though he’s mostly shouting outward from a furious, thrashing churn of riffs and Rafa Martinez‘s crashing drums and steady double-kick, guitarist Jason Landrian isn’t preaching on songs like “Obsolete” or  the opening “Challenger Deep” so much as he’s exploring the ideas, nodding at SepulturaSlayer‘s “Piece by Piece” and the thickened gallop of High on Fire‘s riffing all the while, the two-piece having long since made this intensity and combination of elements their own through years of bash-it-out road work and studio development.

The half-decade interim between records is noteworthy, but Imperium Simulacra answers that with considerable progression displayed in its tracks. At 48 minutes, it is the longest Black Cobra album by at least nine minutes (all the others are 39 and under), but it’s also the most diverse. “Challenger Deep” and the subsequent title-track reinforce the maddening throttle that Landrian and Martinez have made their hallmark, but even in them, there’s a poise to the execution that demonstrates just how much the band has black cobra imperium simulacramastered its form. Clocking in over the eight-minute mark, “Fathoms Below” is not only slower — that in itself is a noteworthy shift in approach, at least to some degree — but more atmospheric, breaking at its midsection to creeping, sparse guitar before igniting a darkened thrash chug that carries it through the final verses and out on a surprisingly doomed note; a different, new take on Black Cobra‘s sonic forcefulness. It’s the longest song they’ve done, and the later “Dark Shine,” at 7:21, is the second-longest, so clearly there’s an intentional drive to explore (and devastate) new avenues of expression. Ragers like “Eye Among the Blind” and the centerpiece “The Messenger” continue to assert aural dominance, the latter locking into a particularly satisfying groove later on, ready to incite a non-karate mosh or at least give the crowd an excuse for next-day sore necks.

About that: There can be little question that Black Cobra‘s primary impact has always been made on stage. Landrian and Martinez have sharpened their attack to a razor line, and while their studio work has served to document that process, it’s always been the case that they’re the proverbial “live band.” I’ve both seen them wear out rooms and been worn out watching them — they’re perfectly willing to out-rock everybody. What Imperium Simulacra does to answer this is it broadens the scope of the songwriting. Invernal was not lacking in atmosphere, but “Fathoms Below” pushes that further, and the new album’s theme feels more concretely represented in the songs. Touches too like the pairing of “Obsolete” — a catchy blastbeater, sans frills at 2:47 — and “Dark Shine,” which starts off with quiet guitar and rolls its initial groove before taking off, perhaps even showing a bit of influence from tourmates YOB (though if I have my timing straight, the album was recorded when they hit the road together) to go with their established methods, show clearly the dynamic range that Black Cobra have grown over their 15 years. Closing duo “Sentinel (Infinite Observer),” with more adventurous and atmospheric lead work, and “Technical Demise,” a final full-on violent outburst, cap Imperium Simulacra with a once-and-for-all showcase of what has made Black Cobra a name brand in underground metal, taking tonal thickness and pounding rhythms and executing them with signature relentlessness.

For the simple fact that Martinez and Landrian approach the new ground they cover throughout its span with the same assurance they bring to the more familiar elements of their arsenal, Imperium Simulacra is the richest Black Cobra outing to-date. Even if that wasn’t the case, however, the band’s sheer unwillingness to sacrifice their overarching urgency — no matter what the pace of an individual track might actually be — remains singularly righteous.

Black Cobra‘s Imperium Simulacra is out Feb. 26. I’m thrilled today to host the premiere of “The Messenger,” which you can hear below, followed by the band’s upcoming tour dates with BongzillaLo-PanAgainst the Grain and Kings Destroy.

Enjoy:

“Imperium Simulacra” is out February 26th on Season of Mist and is available for pre-order here: http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Black+Cobra

Pre-order the collector’s bundle from IndieMerchstore here: indiemerch.com/blackcobra

Tour Dates with Bongzilla and Lo-Pan:
2/26/2016, Madison WI, High Noon Saloon &
2/27/2016, Iowa City IA, Oasis &
2/28/2016, Fargo ND, Aquarium &
3/1/2016, Missoula MT, The Palace &
3/2/2016, Spokane WA, The Pin &
3/3/2016, Seattle WA, Highline &
3/4/2016, Vancouver BC, Rickshaw Theater &
3/5/2016, Bellingham WA, Shakedown &
3/6/2016, Portland OR, Star Theater &
3/7/2016, Sacramento CA, Starlite &
3/8/2016, San Francisco CA, Milk Bar &
3/9/2016, Santa Cruz CA, Catalyst &
3/10/2016, Los Angeles CA, Viper Room &
3/11/2016, San Diego CA, Brick By Brick &
3/12/2016, Mesa AZ, Club Red &
3/13/2016, Albuquerque NM, Sister Bar &
3/15/2016, Denver CO, Marquis Theatre &
3/16/2016, Kansas City MO, Riot Room &
3/17/2016, Ft. Worth TX, The Rail Club &
3/18/2016, Austin TX, SXSW,
3/19/2016, Austin TX, SXSW #
3/20/2016, Houston TX, Fitzgeralds #
3/22/2016, New Orleans LA, Siberia #
3/23/2016, Tampa FL, Orpheum #
3/24/2016, Miami FL, Churchills #
3/25/2016, Orlando FL, Wills Pub #
3/26/2016, Atlanta GA, The Earl #
3/27/2016, Asheville NC, Mothlight #
3/28/2016, Richmond VA, Strange Matter #
3/29/2016, Philadelphia PA, Kung Fu Necktie #
3/30/2016, Pittsburgh PA, Altar Bar #
3/31/2016, Hamden CT, Outer Space Ballroom #
4/1/2016, Brooklyn NY, Saint Vitus #
4/2/2016, Somerville MA, ONCE Ballroom #
4/3/2016, Pawtucket RI, The Met #
4/4/2016, Montreal QC, Foufounes Electriques #
4/5/2016, Toronto ON, Mod Club #
4/6/2016, Detroit MI, Loving Touch #
4/7/2016, Cleveland OH, Grog Shop #
4/8/2016, Chicago IL, Reggies #

Black Cobra and Lo-Pan on all dates
&= Against The Grain 2/26-3/17
#= Kings Destroy 3/19-4/8

Black Cobra preorder at Season of Mist

Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Black Cobra website

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3 Responses to “Black Cobra Premiere “The Messenger” from Imperium Simulacra

  1. […] The Obelisk have premiered a new Black Cobra track titled “The Messenger”. The band’s new full-length Imperium Simulacra will be dropping February 26th via Season Of Mist. Pre-orders are now live at this location. […]

  2. Spencer says:

    Not to be too nitpicky, JJ (while in reality being really nitpicky), but the review makes it sound like Rafa uses a double kick pedal. While he might have adopted one for the new album, I’ve never seen him use one live and I doubt he’s started now. His previous recordings were all done with a single bass drum pedal. I think it’s important to give him credit for this ludicrous feat. He is an absolute animal behind the drum set and probably the most impressive force of percussive fury that I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch–and I’ve seen Des Kensel a bunch of times. I cannot wait for their new album. So much heavy…

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