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Music / Cormorant

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Current line-up. Left to right: Brennan Kunkel, Nick Cohon, Marcus Luscombe, Matt Solis.
Mists once dressed these dunes
Like silk upon her skin,
But the ocean's bare today
And the tide is coming in.
— "The Emigrant's Wake", from Metazoa

Cormorant were a Bay Area Progressive Metal band formed in 2007 that incorporates several other genres into their music who are noted for being musically independent and for their poetic lyrics. The band was founded by Arthur von Nagel and Brennan Kunkel, who grew disinterested with being in a Thrash Metal group as they felt that their sound was too limited. With guitarist Nick Cohon, they formed Cormorant in 2007 as a trio, releasing a demo and an EP. When Matt Solis joined the band after meeting at an Enslaved show, they dove into writing and recording their debut album, Metazoa, with legendary producer Billy Anderson.

The album was met with positive reception, and the band was awarded “Unsigned Talent of the Year” by readers of Ultimate Guitar and a string of successful live shows. In 2011, they began working on a follow up which would later be known as Dwellings. After it’s release, it found even more praise and recognition than their previous album did, being included in multiple end of year favorites list and recognized by NPR, Yahoo! Music and The Needle Drop among others.

During a national tour in 2012, Arthur felt particularly homesick. Later that year, he left the band on good terms to pursue his career in video games with Tell Tale Games. Despite this, he was still supporting the band, following their updates and being present at live shows. The rest of Cormorant responded to his departure with enthusiasm as means to further evolving their sound with new members, as they had when Matt first joined the group. After searching for a replacement, they found Marcus Luscombe who took over being bassist and lead vocalist, and co-wrote the lyrics to their last album alongside Solis.

They broke up/put the band in hibernation in 2019, stating "[O]ur lives have been moving in different directions over the past year, with relocations and life changes having a larger effect on the band than ever before. It’s clear to all of us that in order to give Cormorant the respect and attention it deserves, we have to step away, at least for the time being."

Their Bandcamp profile can be found here.

Members (Founding members in bold, past members in italics):
  • Nick Cohon - guitar
  • Brennan Kunkel - drums, backing vocals
  • Marcus Luscombe'' - lead vocals, bass (2013-Present)
  • Matt Solis - guitar, backing vocals (2008-Present)
  • Arthur von Nagel - lead vocals, bass (2007-2012)

  • 2007 Demo
  • 2007 - The Last Tree EP
  • 2009 - Metazoa
  • 2011 - Dwellings
  • 2014 - Earth Diver
  • 2017 - Diaspora

Tropes associated with the band:

  • An Aesop: "A Howling Dust" is one giant (and tragic) anti-racial message.
  • Album Intro Track: “Eris”
  • April Fools' Day: The band usually has an April Fool’s joke planned:
    • They recorded an intentionally terrible rap song saying it was their new style.
    • In 2012 the band wrote a note on their Facebook page announcing that they were the winners of the Mega Millions jackpot and had bought Roadrunner Records. The article has several (playful) Take Thats at many bands including Dream Theater, Bathory, Nickelback, Gojira, Anal Cunt and Dragonforce. They also said that they will endorse green-friendly fashion that will be taking over Finland, include commentary tracks from Arthur’s guinea pig that comes with a Subway footlong sandwich, have their albums included with anti-piracy spyware that will cause a computer to explode, and remove 20 minutes from each album to have fans pay extra for DLC as well as eventually releasing an “ultra tournament edition” album bundle with Capcom that will include guest appearances from everybody’s favorite characters except Megaman. When asked about how fans would react to this, von Nagel replied with “Fuck our fans”.
    • After Arthur left and fans were worried about the band’s lyrics taking a major hit, the remainder of the band jokingly posted intentionally cheesy lyrics that were written by Matt Solis the following April Fools.
  • The Band Minus the Face: After Arthur’s departure. The general consensus among fans seems to be that he was irreplaceable as a lyricist, but their music is still great.
  • Black Metal: Influenced, but most noticeable on Dwellings. They then became a full progressive black metal band on Earth Diver.
  • Careful with That Axe: von Nagel’s screaming at the end of “Two Brothers” in particular is truly horrifying,
  • Cover Drop: Most of the images/scenes on Dwellings are in reference to at least one song on the album. Even the instrumental “Confusion of Tongues” is represented with the Tower of Babel. The art makes a lot more clearer once the lyrics are read and the theme of immortality becomes more apparently.
  • Darker and Edgier: Earth Diver returns to Cormorant's heavier output, with more darker-sounding music and more heavy-handed lyrics about betrayal.
  • Epic Rocking: Being a Progressive Metal band, some of their songs have exceptional length. “Ballad of the Beast”, “Hanging Gardens”, “The Emigrant’s Wake”, “Funambulist”, “Unearthly Dreamings”, “Waking Sleep” and “A Sovereign Act” all clock-in around 9-12 minutes in length.
    • From Diaspora, “Migration” is twenty-six minutes long, while “Sentinel” is nearly sixteen.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Sky Burial" into "Voices of the Mountain"; "A Howling Dust" into "Unearthly Dreamings"; "Eris" into "Daughter of Void".
  • Genre Shift: Started as a straightforward melodic death metal band with one progressive metal track on The Last Tree, became a progressive death metal band with folk and black metal influences on Metazoa, became a progressive metal act with harsh vocals with doom passages on Dwellings, and became a folky blackened progressive metal band on Earth Diver. Diaspora essentially takes the progressive aspects of their style up to eleven, with a total of four songs on an album lasting about an hour. These guys hardly stick to one sound.
  • Instrumentals: “Voices of the Mountain”, “Confusion of Tongues”
  • Lead Bassist: Arthur von Nagel and Marcus Luscombe are both Type B. Arthur is also a Type C for his lyrical output, noted by fans and critics alike as being accurately well-written and poetic for their genre, although Matt and Marcus certainly are no slouches when it comes to this after von Nagel’s departure.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Every release of theirs with the exceptions of Metazoa and Assorted Jams: Vol 2. Diaspora in particular jumps up from the already sizable 15:51 with "The Sentinel" and ends on "Migrations" with a whopping 26:15
  • Melodic Death Metal: Until Dwellings. They still have influences of it, but is no longer as prevalent compared to The Last Tree and Metazoa.
  • Metal Scream: How they tend to start their albums and a good amount of their albums off.
  • Odd Name Out: They are included in this wiki's lists of Black Metal and Melodic Death Metal bands. Bands in those genres tend to have names based on religion, violence and folklore, either individually or in combination. And then we have Cormorant, named after a common sea bird.
  • Piss-Take Rap: Apparently, the band recorded a hip-hop song with intentionally bad and autotuned rapping for an April Fool’s joke.
  • Power Trio: Until 2008, when Solis joined the group.
  • Progressive Metal: Throughout their career, although averted on The Last Tree until the final track. Because of the band’s wide variety of influences, most listeners end up categorizing them under this.
    • The fact that their genre of music is so hard to describe has been lampshaded by the fans as well as the band themselves, who tend to make up their own genre labels ranging from “Tiberian Ass Bastard Folk” to “Post-Black Weird Shit”.
    Matt Solis: Our sound is sort of hard to classify: do you call us "blackened death folk" or "progressive black metal" or what? So to bypass all the bickering, we jokingly align ourselves with a made-up genre. And to clarify, there should be a hyphen in there: Tiberian-Ass Bastard Folk. It's not anything serious, we're not going to try to start a revolution or something pretentious like's just a funny way to describe something that a lot of people have a hard time describing. I think genre specification is stupid to begin with, though. It's all rock and roll when you get down to it.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Though their main vocal style is growled or screamed, they sometimes have clean vocal parts as well. Sometimes, as on "Ballad of the Beast", these are provided by guest female vocalists, and sometimes they're provided by the band members.
  • Special Guest: Aaron Gregory of GiantSquid appears on “Hole in the Sea”. Billy Anderson, producer of Metazoa, also delivers some backing vocals in the beginning of “Scavengers Feast”.
  • Spoken Word in Music: “Scavenger’s Feast”, where an interlude consists of the band members and other people in the studio at the time reading excerpts from different books layered on top of each other in various languages.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Not the most contrasting compared to a lot of other examples due to their heavy folk influence, but the closing track on Metazoa, “Voices of the Mountain”, is a beautiful guitar duet between Nick and Matt with the soft crackling of fire in the background which is a contrast to the progressive death metal music of the other tracks on that album.
  • Sampling: Occasionally used in their full-length albums.
  • Start My Own: How Cormorant came to be.
  • Uncommon Time: They’re Progressive Metal, so you can expect lots of complicated time signature changes.
  • Vocal Evolution: Arthur von Nagel used more black metal shrieking in addition to his death growls on Metazoa, and completely replacing the latter with the former on ''Dwellings''. Marcus Luscombe sometimes throws in guttural growls in addition to his shrieking for Earth Diver.
    • When Matt Solis joined the band, more clean backing vocals provided by him and Brennan (and Nick at times as well) are apparent throughout their career in addition to both Arthur and Marcus switching between clean and harsh singing.

Their lyrics contain tropes of:

  • The Alcoholic: The narrator’s father in “A Howling Dust” is definately one, and it eventually is the cause of his demise.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • The damned in “Hanging Gardens” are described to be groaning cadavers wrapped in funeral pall begging for a second chance to pass Heaven’s gate, while others are hanged from trees warning trespassers to turn back in order to avoid their fate.
    • In “Hole in the Sea”, the narrator is swallowed whole by a whale-like creature that is a possible deity. He awakes to find himself having been digested by the creature and is fully conscious, being able to hear cities and people dying as the whale brings about the apocalypse. After the last of humanity has died, his soul is spat out onto the remains of the destroyed Earth to which his body starts to become the vessel in which new life will grow.
  • Ax-Crazy: The narrator of “The Purest Land” and the group in “Mark the Trail”.
  • Badass Boast: The lyrics of “The Purest Land” tend to fall under this from the perspective of Lope de Aguiree, making Arthur take up a noticeably hammy singing style for the song. Also dabbles into "The Reason You Suck" Speech at times.
  • Bilingual Bonus: “Uneasy Lies the Head”, “Funambulist” and “Junta” contain passages that are written in French, which is fitting because those songs either take place in French-speaking countries or have characters from France.
    • An interlude on “Scavengers Feast” contains spoken word passages from multiple people in various languages from both the band and others.
  • Body Horror:
    • Light example in “A Sovereign Act” which includes a few passing mentions of the conditions that the narrator has, which are not quite beautiful.
    • Subverted in "Waking Sleep", as it excludes the self-mutilation from the source material.
  • Call-Back: A possibly unintentional example. The lyric theme of “Daughter of Void” brings to mind “The Emigrant’s Wake” (that is, a young boy drowning himself).
  • Concept Album:
    • Metazoa is described to be about man’s animistic nature as a collective whole. Each song makes at least one reference to an animal as well, although this was said to have been unintentional by the band.
    • Dwellings is described to be one. In addition to each song being about a certain structure or based around a location, each of the songs are linked to the common theme of the path to immortality and how far man is willing to achieve it.
    • Earth Diver has a theme of conspiracy and deceit going around its lyrics.
  • Creepypasta: “Waking Sleep”, which is based on the events of “The Russian Sleep Experiment”.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The tyrant in “Uneasy Lies the Head” is a shining example of this. He is publicly humiliated and has a gunshot wound in his jaw, possibly from an attempted suicide. When he tries to give his final words, his mouth becomes unhinged as birds peck at his flesh, which is described to be so horrific that it “makes even soldiers cringe”. He is then executed by guillotine, which raises an uproar from the crowd of onlookers. This is describing the real life death of Maximilien de Robespierre.
  • Death of a Child:
  • Deep South: “Blood on the Cornfields” takes place in this, following the plight of Nat Turner.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Common. “Rain Follows the Plow”, “Ronin”, “Hole in the Sea”, “Junta”, "A Howling Dust", “Unearthly Dreamings”, “The Pythia” have protagonists who go through one. Tends to cross with Driven to Suicide as well.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: "Mark the Trail"
    Those who dare to walk in the forest
    Be wary, there is trouble abound
    A new breed of humanity
    Surviving by hunting you down
  • Downer Ending: An amount of their songs tends to lead to a depressing climax that it would be easier to list examples that did not. The biggest example is “Junta” where a huge amount of civilians are massacred in broad daylight, women were raped, stores were looted, a child went missing, a girl commits suicide as a result of being raped and the one who orchestrated it all ended up getting away with it.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • “Rain Follows the Plow”, “Blood on the Cornfields”, “Hanging Gardens”, “The Emigrant’s Wake”, “Junta”, “Daughter of Void”, and “Sold as a Crow” all include this trope, sometimes in a first-person narrative and as the main theme of the song. Debatable in the case for “Unearthly Dreamings”.
    • “A Sovereign Act” crosses the line between this and Face Death with Dignity.
    • Interrupted Suicide in “Ballad of the Beast”, as the narrator was about to jump off a ledge to fulfill his death prophecy before an angel catches him.
  • Dying Town: At the conclusion of “A Howling Dust”, almost everybody leaves the town when the gold runs dry. The town that the real life equivalent of the story took place in, Hornitos, CA, is an actual Ghost Town.
  • Eye Scream:
    • The battle between the two elk in “A Dance of Elk Entwined” concludes when one impales the alpha male through the eye with their antler, killing him.
    • “Trojan Horses” has the line “You steal a blind man’s eyes”.
    • “Junta”, with “Bayonets puncture eyes” as it describes the massacre.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • In the final verse of "Blood of the Cornfields", Nat Turner is said to be grinning as he was being put to death, true to form.
    • "A Sovereign Act" is about the hotly debated Death With Dignity act, inspired by the documentary How to Die in Oregon.
  • Gaia's Vengeance:
    • “Hole in the Sea" has the Earth destroying all of humanity and their creations in the form of a Space Whale. Or something like that.
    • “Scavengers Feast” has something like this going on, if not After the End.
  • Government Conspiracy:
    • “Sold as a Crow” is about a series of MK Ultra tests that were conducted and covered up by the CIA, hence the title.
    • “Waking Sleep” is another example, where five men are kept awake for days and driven to insanity as a result.
  • Horrible History Metal: And how! Earth Diver started to incorporate a few urban legends and folklore into their lyrics.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: “Trojan Horses” mentions them, and the main character is Death itself.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The band is not exactly subtle about their subject of human brutality and how they endanger the environment and themselves.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Avoided in “Ballad of the Beast”, where Jesus Christ is saved from his crucifixion by Satan himself and an archangel.
  • Karma Houdini: The soldiers in "Junta" and the government agents of "Sold as a Crow" get away with their crimes.
  • Missing Child: Aside from children dying (sometimes horrifically), “Junta” also plays on the fear of losing one’s child. A family is described having a son who went missing in the ensuing chaos. In the end, his body was never recovered.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • In "Junta", a woman is gang-raped in turn by a group of soldiers. This is only stopped when one of them recognizes her and lets her go.
    • The narrator and his father in "A Howling Dust".
  • Outliving One's Offspring: In “Daughter of Void” the father is among the tribesmen who find the body of the drowned boy floating in the water after having warned him about the creature that was the cause of his death.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: “Daughter of Void” features the Qalupalik; an Inuit mythical whale-like Humanoid Abomination that coaxes a curious boy to his death with a flash of her emerald tail and a humming sound.
  • Rape as Drama: “Junta” includes a truly tragic example of this. The narrative shifts to a young woman who is raped by a group of soldiers, who let her go after one recognizes her. The song then describes how she is unable to sleep or talk about her experience, and at the end of the song it is revealed that she killed herself.
  • Rerouted from Heaven: The narrator in "Hanging Gardens", self-described as free from sin, is denied entrance into Heaven and is pushed towards Hell.
  • Restart the World: Revealed to be the reason for the events of “Hole in the Sea”.
  • Revenge: Revolutions and revolts are present in some of their lyrics: “Uneasy Lies the Head”, “Salt of the Earth”, “Blood on the Cornfields” and “The Purest Land”. “A Howling Dust” provides a non-revolutionary example of this trope.
  • Revenge by Proxy: In “Blood on the Cornfields, when the slave owners start to murder those not involved in Nat Turner’s rebellion due to the color of their skin. Similarly done in "The First Man" as well.
  • Shown Their Work: Cormorant’s lyrics tend to be accurate retellings of historical events, with a lot of attention to detail put into them. They are very much praised for this even by non-metal fans.
    Arthur von Nagel: In the Iron Maiden tradition, I’m a massive history nerd, so I’ll often conduct several weeks of research before adapting any real life events to lyric form. And then of course the lyrics themselves go through dozens of tweaks and rewrites. A strong marriage between the words and music is essential to me, so there are always modifications made when combining the two, and we don’t have any hard and fast rule regarding which is written first.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Ronin", an incomplete song from their first demo, is all about this trope along with Survivor Guilt.
  • Stylistic Suck: Whenever the band opts for an April Fools' Day joke, they use... considerable less effort in their music and/or lyrics for comedy.
  • Truth in Television: As is the case for Horrible History Metal, a lot of their songs are very accurate as mentioned in Shown Their Work.
  • Wham Line: “Waking Sleep”, where after the conductors of the test dread that something was wrong after a prolonged period of silence from the subjects:
    And now the voice from the ether announces imminent breach.
    And from the first they encounter, “We don’t want to be freed!”
  • A World Half Full: The band writes lyrics that shift between the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism so much that they start to swing back to this trope quite a bit, with even some of the bleaker songs like "Hole in the Sea" or "A Sovereign Act" going on end about how death has an amount of acceptance to it, and that the world is not a Crapsack World; nature will continue its cycle whether humanity lives or ends. Although this is averted as often as it is played straight, like in "Junta" or "Broken Circle".