REVIEW: YEAR OF THE COBRA – “Ash And Dust”
Year of the Cobra is a two-piece psychedelic/stoner doom metal band hailing from Seattle, Washington helmed by the duo of Amy Tung Barrysmith as the vocalist and bassist and Johannes Barrysmith as the drummer. I first discovered this band way back in 2015 when they released their debut EP ‘The Black Sun’ which was a short but promising EP. A year later, the band released their debut full-length album ‘…in the Shadows Below’ which instantly put the band onto fans of the style of music’s radar. With that album, Year of the Cobra was seen as an exciting new force that could arise to become along with the same level of bands like Witch Mountain, Acid King, Blood Ceremony, Windhand, and Alunah especially with Amy and her dreamy yet playful approach to vocals. The band was able to provide their own twist of drenched fuzz as they balanced between the fun and groovy with the dreamy and trippy which was further amped up on their follow up EP which boasted a clearer production job which actually benefited their sound. Now, the band is releasing their anticipated follow up second full length ‘Ash and Dust’ and I can confidently say that it is the band’s best work.
Year of the Cobra does it again on ‘Ash and Dust’. They skillfully maintained and elevated the balancing act they have established in their sound. “Into The Fray” and “Dark Swan” are great examples of singular tracks where you can see the duo skillfully weave between the abrasive and delicate. With “Into the Fray”, the band delivers a steady but hard-hitting performance in the instruments while Amy’s vocals float on top while in “Dark Swan” the vocals and instruments sync up but as a whole the band grows and decays with intensity and moderation where the emotional climaxes remind me of Mount Salem but darker. Then you have standout tracks that take swing heavily to either side. “Ash and Dust” for example is an upbeat, highly punk-influenced, and groovy track. Amy’s vocals here take on a more energetic and aggressive character which packs the song into a nice in your face package. On the other end of the spectrum is the album opener “The Battle of White Mountain”. This track almost has a quaint feel with nice catchy melodies complimented by swirling psychedelic soundscapes, and the soft, melodic, dreamy vocals wonderfully delivered by Amy. Despite that description, the track has an energetic undertone which is mainly derived from the melodies and the playful, dare I say cute, vocalizations from Amy which brings so much character to this song. It is definitely a highlight and starts the album off well.
With that being said, this album is dynamic. This album has variety and half of that variety comes from the aforementioned balance of sound but the other half comes from the band’s experimentation on this album which are paying dividends. “Demons” is a track starts off with their slowest tempo and progresses into a really cool track highlighted by some cool synths layered on top of the noisy instruments and with a haunting whisper-like vocal performance from Amy. “At the Edge” is a track that took me by surprise in a great way. On this song, the band sheds some of their psychedelic and stoner influence and went more for a melodic approach that oddly reminds me of Woods of Ypres and like the album opener, shares similar-sounding traits that make that and this song to be two of the most infectious and addicting tracks on this album. Amy’s vocal performance here is stunning, it’s dreamy, it’s despondent, it’s mesmerizing. The album closer “Despair” is also a brilliant showcase of experimentation as it takes the soft and delicate approach to an even new extreme. This song is the most stripped-down song on the album, in a good way. It has the least amount of distortion and effects and it is the most intimate and sombre song the band has done. It is definitely another highlight of this album.
‘Ash and Dust’ is the band’s best album so far. It is lush, it is hard-hitting, it is dreamy, it is groovy, and above all, it keeps you engaged with all the different musical influences, emotional characters, and sonic dynamics found on this album. This album features some of the best vocal performances from Amy in metal this year as she delivers excellent performances one after another with a variety of different styles. With ‘Ash and Dust’, Year of the Cobra firmly cements themselves as one of the best modern bands of this style of metal. I can not wait to see where this band will go next after this.