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The band's current lineup; Erik Wunder on the left and Charlie Fell on the right
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Cobalt is a Black Metal band from Greeley, Colorado. To date they have released four albums, one of which is a double album, and two EPs, one of which is as long as most bands' full-length albums (for that matter, it's longer than the first Cobalt album). Their style started out as fairly raw (their first album is named War Metal, after a particularly raw subgenre of black metal, although it is debatable how much their music has to do with this style), but starting with Eater of Birds they began incorporating substantial amounts of influence from Progressive Metal acts like Tool and Post-Metal acts like Neurosis. Unsurprisingly, the songs got longer, the music got substantially more complicated, and the usage of wide dynamic range and unusual time signatures skyrocketed.

For the first three albums the band was noteworthy for featuring U.S. Army member Phil McSorley as its vocalist. McSorley's experiences in the Army strongly informed the band's sound, giving the band a uniquely American sound in a genre where many acts are accused of aping the sound of the Norwegian second-wave bands. Cobalt has been a two-man band in the studio for its entire existence, with the other member being multi-instrumentalist Erik Wunder, who has played all the instruments in the studio since McSorley joined the army, apart from on McSorley's lengthy dark ambient composition "Ritual Use of Fire". Unfortunately, McSorley went on a misogynistic, homophobic tirade on Facebook in 2014 (which was the culmination of a long line of increasingly vicious and hateful comments that he had become notorious for), which resulted in his being ejected from the band and replaced with ex-Lord Mantis vocalist Charlie Fell (who has not avoided his own share of controversy, though his tenure in Cobalt seems to have been free from it). Perhaps surprisingly, McSorley and Wunder (and, for that matter, McSorley and Fell) remain on good terms; in McSorley's defence, he seems to understand why his behaviour necessitated his ejection from the band, and it is also extremely possible that he was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of his meltdown. Thus far, Fell seems to have avoided Replacement Scrappy status, as his vocals on the band's most recent album Slow Forever have been generally well received by the band's fan base.

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Cobalt remains fairly obscure among people not familiar with underground black metal (although they have had some media exposure)note , but for people who know about them their music is quite well loved, and with good reason. Their music sounds like the work of no one else in existence.

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Members

  • Erik Wunder - drums, bass, guitar, backing vocals (2003-)
  • Charlie Fell - lead vocals (2015-)

Past/Live

  • Phil McSorley - lead vocals, guitar (2003-2014)
  • Michael Dimmitt - bass (live, 2013)
  • Josh Lozano - guitars (live, 2013)

Discography

  • 2003 - Hammerfight (EP)
  • 2005 - War Metal
  • 2007 - Eater of Birds
  • 2008 - Landfill Breastmilk Beast (officially classified as an EP, though it's actually longer than War Metal)
  • 2009 - Gin
  • 2016 - Slow Forever

Tropes applicable to the band and its works:

  • Album Title Drop: One on every album, usually on the title track.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: "Dry Body" is a psychedelic post-metal track with ritualistic chanted vocals that sounds like a tribute to Neurosis instead of the band's normal black metal.
  • Anti-Love Song: Many songs, especially on Gin. "Ulcerism" is another good example.
  • Badass Boast: In the Title Track of Eater of Birds.
    "I am one with the wilderness
    I stole the sky
    I am the eater of BIIIIIIIIIIIIRDS!"
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: A lot of the lyrics from Gin give off this impression.
  • Boléro Effect: Starting with Gin they've used this trope extensively, possibly owing to their love of post-metal bands and Tool, both of whom also use this a lot. Eater of Birds does it somewhat too, but not as much.
  • Breather Episode: The instrumental interludes are generally structured as these.
  • Broken Record/Madness Mantra: Many lines get looped repeatedly. For two examples, "Arsonry" has "Burn me down, shoot me in the chest" four times followed by "Let's fuck one last time on a burning bed" four times. "Eater of Birds" repeats the last word of the title repeatedly, first with McSorley's trademark scream and later as a creepy whispered chant.
  • Brown Note: McSorley seems to have intended the full-length version of "Ritual Use of Fire" to be a real-life example of this trope. He certainly succeeded.
  • Cover Version: They released a cover of "Extinction" by the New York punk band Nausea.
  • Destructive Romance: Much of Gin seems to be about an incredibly dysfunctional relationship.
  • Drone of Dread: Just about all of "Ritual Use of Fire".
  • Early Installment Weirdness: War Metal will be a shock to listeners used to the band's more progressive material. Hammerfight will be even more so, given how lo-fi it is.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: Several tracks have these, but "Invincible Sun" stands out as a particularly awesome example. The track goes on for more than four minutes before the vocals enter.
  • Epic Rocking: "Empire of the Moth" from War Metal provided a modest example at 8:40, but ever since Eater of Birds they've really taken to this trope, with at least one song from each album approaching or exceeding ten minutes ("Invincible Sun", 9:42; "Eater of Birds", 10:27; "Ritual Use of Fire" [EP version], 29:31; "Two-Thumbed Fist", 9:57; "King Rust", 11:15; "Final Will", 11:16; "Slow Forever", 9:36). The average song length on Cobalt's last three albums, excepting interludes (which tend to be much shorter), is about eight minutes long.
  • Ernest Hemingway: That's him on the cover of Gin. There are plenty of references to him in their lyrics and song titles, and the album has 61 tracks owing to that being his age when he died (50 of these are silence, so the track number is deliberate).
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: The full-length version of "Ritual Use of Fire" does some variant of this about four or five times.
  • Hunter S. Thompson: Another acknowledged influence on the band (Gin is dedicated to Hemingway and Thompson).
  • Instrumentals: Starting with Eater of Birds, each album has a few of these.
  • Jump Scare: "Eater of Birds" starts up full blast right after the last ambient interlude on Eater of Birds.
  • Last Note Nightmare: Several of their releases end this way. "Eater of Birds" ends with McSorley creepily whispering the word "birds" over and over. "Ritual Use of Fire" is nearly thirty minutes of this trope. "Stew Craven / ..." is a very unsettling prison chant that ends with what sounds like the sound of a record skipping. "Siege" may outdo all of them, however; it's practically Harsh Noise.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "Invincible Sun" again (only about three minutes of its nearly ten-minute running time have vocals), and possibly other tracks as well.
  • Long Runner Lineup: The Wunder/McSorley lineup lasted for 11 years, not counting live-only members, although the band was inactive for quite a lot of that time.
  • Loudness War: Unfortunately, releases starting with Landfill Breastmilk Beast have been badly affected by this trope, which is particularly unfortunate given the music's increased usage of dynamics. The band's first two full-lengths are also affected by this, but the clipping problems aren't as noticeable; the albums are mostly just really loud.
  • The Masochism Tango: Another impression given off by the Gin lyrics.
  • Mind Screw: Quite a few of their lyrics could qualify.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Solid 10 during the metal parts. Interludes can dip as low as 1.
  • Oedipus Complex: Referenced in the title track of "Gin."
    "How much I want to crawl back inside my mother,
    I want a house made out of her
    How I want to wear the blood of my father"
  • Rated M for Manly: Even moreso than is normal for black metal. Probably inevitable, considering the Hemingway influence.
  • Sampling and Spoken Word in Music: The band has been known to use these from time to time. One of the tracks on Slow Forever samples Hemingway's Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: McSorley, which informed much of the band's material for his tenure, and eventually resulted in him having to leave the band temporarily due to PTSD. It could also explain the eventual meltdown that resulted in him being fired from the band.
  • Siamese Twin Songs and Fading into the Next Song: They use both these tropes a lot starting with Eater of Birds.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • "Ritual Use of Fire" is a lengthy dark ambient piece McSorley put together while on duty in Iraq. The complete version is 29:31 and appears on Landfill Breastmilk Beast. Three shorter excerpts of the piece appear on Eater of Birds, but these are not very representative of the whole work as they tend to be the parts with acoustic guitar. Much of the piece is comprised of distortion-laden feedback.
    • "Stew Craven / ...", the Hidden Track on Gin, is an unsettling rendition of the prison chant "Berta, Berta", as made famous by the play/film The Piano Lesson.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Most of their vocals are the expected Metal Screams but there are occasional clean vocals. "Dry Body", by contrast, uses mostly clean vocals with occasional screams.
  • Special Guest: Jarboe of Swans fame shows up on "Invincible Sun" and "Androids, Automatons and Nihilists" from Eater of Birds and "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and "Pregnant Insect" from Gin.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Erik Wunder on "Dry Body".
  • Suicide by Sea: "Witherer" seems to be about this.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: A lot of the interludes are played on acoustic guitar, and have the gentleness one would expect from this. Even the ones with electric guitar tend to be much less harsh than the surrounding material. This is subverted with "Ritual Use of Fire", which, despite being an ambient piece, is much scarier than the band's harder material.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: In contrast to their later material, Hammerfight has an extremely lo-fi production. The music is still fairly complex, though.
  • Uncommon Time: As befitting a band this influenced by Progressive Metal, they use a lot of it. Just to give one example, "Hunt the Buffalo", the opening track on Slow Forever, opens in 5/4 or 10/4, depending on how you count it. There are plenty more, though.
  • Vocal Evolution: McSorley's screams on Hammerfight are far higher-pitched than they are on his later work with the band. It also sounds like they may have had a distortion filter or some other form of post-processing applied to them. McSorley also uses occasional King Diamond-like falsetto on some tracks, which is not present on later material.
  • Warrior Poet: Phil McSorley himself, considering his very poetic lyrics and the fact that he was literally on duty in an active warzone while much of the band's music was being recorded.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Some of their songs qualify, especially on Gin, but "Two Thumbed Fist" is a particularly extreme example.
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