We’re approaching a year since this was released, but Schmutz didn’t exist then and this is an album we really wanted to talk about. A long hiatus coupled with a lineup change usually proves fatal to a band, but Cobalt proves to be an exception on its latest record, Slow Forever, which is at least a return to form, if not their strongest release of all. The departure of the band’s founder and former vocalist Phil McSorley following a fairly epic social-media meltdown did not bode well, until news arrived of his replacement by the appropriately monstrous Charlie Fell (ex-Lord Mantis). Multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder handles the rest with panache, all the way through nearly 84 minutes of material spread across twelve tracks, with zero filler. The overall approach and sound harkens back less to 2009’s Gin than 2007’s Eater of Birds, a hearty heavy metal stew that did not shrink from milking a good riff for a few extra bars or paring back the blast beats to lend a more dynamic structure than your usual black metal record. In other words, Slow Forever is a headbanger whose stylistic debts range all across the world of extreme metal, but has its own distinctive grooves—and it does groove, recalling Tool more than Marduk—and savage ambitions. Despite Cobalt’s earlier successes, 2016 is a much kinder year for such an album than 2007 or 2008 would have been, and so it is no accident that many consider Slow Forever amongst 2016’s best—if not the best—metal release. They are right. Hail Cobalt redivivus!
Gottlieb Brenner is a Berlin-based Schmutz contributor. He enjoys kabusecha, gin, and believes “Superunknown” was the best album of the ’90s.