Album: Malignant Dominion
Many technical death metal bands are finding unique ways to stay new and fresh. Tech death is something I’ve always been interested; the sheer instrumentational aspect always excited me. There are riffs and patterns that I want to write, and Cognizance is a band that inspires me greatly. Their newest release incorporates branches itself out to other genre incorporations and band-influence, making it a great album to rock out to. For a debut album as well, after several EPs, it stands up to the wait, especially with vigorous guest-spots.
“The Organic Citadel” is a staple of every aspect of the band. Fast drums, melodic duel guitars; almost every second of this song has the guitarists doing separate euphonious harmonies and scales. While one guitar pounds with the bass drum, the other plays a rich lead line. About halfway through the song, a Fallujah-esque guitar solo enters. There’s ambience, space, and lots of arpeggio shredding. This song has a lot of room in itself, opposed to their previous work being in the listener’s face, this song takes its time to build up to the all-out speed that the band holds.
The title track boasts the most aggression heard on the album. It’s fast, it’s got chordal rippage, it’s a rampage of emotion. The dichotomy between the gentle singing and the agitated vocals shows a well-blended craft that the band is plays with. Emphasizing the softer side of the band, vocalist/guitarist Ole Børud (Extol) introduces a new layer with his voice and playing.
The introduction to “Strychnine Shift” shows some minor Slipknot influence. The down-tuned guitars with the low-fret bouncing makes this song a top contender. Jonny Davis (Job for a Cowboy) enters after a heavy interlude section, absolutely annihilating the guest spot. Hearing him scream on a melodic track after a few years made me revisit the JFAC records from back in the day. Besides that, the song ends with the beginning riff while the bass drums blast in the background, ending on a phat cymbal hit.
“An Existential Battle” commits to building tension with its intro. Even as the song begins, the ethereal atmosphere in the background makes the listener feel like there is more to come. This is the final song, and Cognizance are here to go out with a bang. The fast-shredding solos mixed with differential drums and thick sounding bass makes for a nostalgia trip from old Cognizance EPs. The tightness of the vocal dissonance is pleasing, as the notes are far enough to be harmonies but close enough to add girth to both notes independently. As the middle comes to a build, Ian Jekelis (Aborted) enters with a melting solo, ripping up and down the guitar as fast as he entered the track. The album ends with a long echo of the cymbals until it starts again with its brutal intro track.
Overall, the album was well-paced and interesting. It switches up between the old Cognizance and shows stylistic changes that will forge them into technical death metal giants in the future. Being their debut album, many people may hear this record before listening to previous EPs, which is a fantastic introduction to the band. The “Illusory” EP was my introduction, and it had a way different vibe than this record. The band is more controlled, well-tempered, but isn’t afraid to bring out the big guns to remind the listener where they came from.
FFO: Vale of Pnath, Necrophagist, Fallujah