A few years ago, the universe George Lucas created with “Star Wars” essentially was wrestled away from him and placed in what most hoped would be better hands. Still, it was strange to accept this ongoing story without its primary creative visionary at the helm, and happy as many people were, it wasn’t until we saw the final product on screen that people let loose a sigh of relief.
It’s been five years since Arthur von Nagel left Cormorant, and the band now is on their second release without him in the fold. Honestly, it was weird at first when the group carried on, releasing 2014’s “Earth Diver” to an audience of people who didn’t know what would greet them. The results were pretty good, but now that they have returned with massive “Diaspora,” Cormorant have rounded into the ideal post-von Nagel band. This unit truly is the transformed body created by its members—bassist/vocalist Marcus Luscombe, guitarists Matt Solis and Nick Cohon, and drummer Brennan Kunkel (the latter three also member of Ursa)—and this new effort, a four-track, 61-minute record, is their statement that Cormorant is theirs alone now. The album is challenging and enthralling, and with some epic run times, you’re given no choice but to plug in and take this journey every step of the way with them. This is Cormorant’s true show of force.
“Preserved in Ash” is the 10:41 opener, and it rumbles open, kicking up dust and getting your heart in gear for the long trip ahead. Luscombe’s growls penetrate, while the melodies swell and take you with them, deep into the heat. “Head to the sea, on this volatile path, follow the sun, through the cracks in the ash,” Luscombe calls while the band swings out of a proggy cloud and into power. The guitars feel like they’re wind cracked and burnt, and everything comes to a pummeling end. “Sentinel” runs 15:52, and it fades in from the clouds. The first bit is slurry and hypnotic, but it’s not long until the thing chugs harder, and creaky growls lead into a section of spirited singing. The track goes from tricky to heated to hazy to cold, with guest Jackie Perez Gratz’s (Grayceon, Giant Squid) unmistakable cello work filling in even more texture. The cut goes clean, as Luscombe pleads, “Gods above, forgive me! Let them find their own way and release me to my dreams,” and the song tears apart again. The growls gnaw away, the guitars give off wilting steam, and the track fades away like a memory.
“The Devourer” is the shortest cut at 7:51, and its blasts open with grime and violence. The verses are filthy and delivered with crusty abandon, while the choruses have a huge, glorious feel to them, adding light to the murky dark. The track has its moments where it gets tricky and seems to feed off sci-fi tendencies, while the soloing is powerful before giving way to some serenity. Luscombe pushes his voice into the stratosphere again before the song turns burly again, and its body disintegrates into a pocket of noise. “Migration” is the 26:15 closer, a song that breathes even more life to the record’s multi-panel packaging by essentially telling its story. Spending time with the lyrics alone is enough to compel and get the bloodstream surging, but applying it to the music compounds the experience. Out of mystical winds, the band drives slowly, with Luscombe calling, “Lex Sempronia Agraria, we migrate to find it.” Strong melodies and a sense of traversing the land and finding new prosperity bubble to the surface, while the guitar interplay brings a sense of glory. About halfway through, a feeling of desolation and loneliness arrives, as the music gets spacious and strange, and then the music begins a rapid ascension. The music keeps burning off layers, as the finality comes into focus. As Luscombe wails, “The mission embellished, charged ‘from above,’ the promise of virtue, contrived imperialist lie,” puts a dagger in that hope, and like those dreams, the final moments bleed off and dry in the dirt.
Fully in control of their plotlines, both creatively and from a band perspective, Cormorant deliver a rousing, devastating journey on “Diaspora.” The band has made an aggressive journey of their own from their early years to where they stand now, and they are reaching the height of their creativity. This remains one of the most stimulating bands in all extreme music, and with this album, we are witnessing a galvanized force ready to tear its way forward.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/CormorantMusic/
To buy the album, go here: https://cormorant.bandcamp.com/