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1. Road Born Orphan
2. Fucking Fertilizer
3. Chopping Block
4. Spider Scraper
5. Jackals & Arabs
7. True Crime, True Criminal
8. The Motherfucker
The first slew of releases pressed by Seventh Rule were unstoppable. 2004 saw Akimbo's third full-length City of the Stars, the limited 12" from doom phenomenon Buried at Sea and the debut from the hardcore seniority that make up Sweet Cobra, Praise. Quickly cutting any connections, however, Praise raised the eyebrows of the metal underground and established itself as a stoner-core workforce, earning them spots with Eyehategod, ISIS, Big Business and the like. It took three years since the recording of Praise and four since its release to unleash their latest effort, which has found a just as suitable home at Jason Gagovski's (Suicide Note/Stabbed By Words) co-owned Hawthorne Street Records.
Forever is fast to bring Sweet Cobra's sound into the latter half of this decade with a much thicker delivery than their debut. All the knobs were turned by a geek squad of hometown heroes, who are proving the Windy City can bring the heavy just as well as it can spit out sax improvisations.
"Fucking Fertilizer" and "True Crime, True Criminal" are the album's shortest and fastest tracks, both with a galloping, High on Fire feel that really keep the momentum going from opener to closer. The former is a perfect set-up for the driving, hypnotic "Chopping Block," which is the grooviest goddamned metal you've heard since Rastafarians discovered the Flying V. "Spider Scraper" finds vocalist Botchy Vasquez exploring his melodies a bit, and turns into as good of a stoner sing-a-long as anything from the Torche catalogue. For being his first time as frontman, the Milemarker/Challenger drummer has one of the more signature voices in heavy music today, more of a bellow than anything else. Guitarists Robert Lanham and Matthew Arluck collaborate best in "Luddite," which had me regretting my purchase of Blood Mountain (again) as it weaved a path of terror through the album's heaviest riffs and most haunting leads. And as tacky as a Mastodon reference is, it should be noted that Sweet Cobra may not display the technicalities Mastodon does, but absolutely blow them away in the apparently overlooked field of songwriting.
Even the lyrics are well-written, especially for an album that won't be listened to for its poetry. Vasquez works alliterations like "The cycle sets the speed/The sickle clears the field/Wildly spun... into the night" into fitting vocal patterns, and that is no small feat in a scene dominated by stagnant screams and thoughtless lines. Alongside Mi Amore and, to an extent, John Baizley, Sweet Cobra is part of a rare breed whose lyrics and artwork manage to coincide with their music, yet are still pleasurable as their own entities.
Despite the somewhat forgetful, trudging pace of "The Motherfucker," Forever could play on repeat incessantly. They are a collection of great musicians, playing the right genre at an extending peak of their careers. Even while songs like "Jackals & Arabs" are only a close departure from Praise, its steady bass and cymbol-heavy verses still exhibit a slightly more mature nature. Expect a reverberating assault of level-headed metal that doesn't adapt to fit fashion trends or clean up for the conformists.
Bottom Line: Sweet Cobra are either exploring a new direction for metal or a completely forgotten one. They don't entirely hide their hardcore roots nor do they fear growth, and do just enough wandering around to promise innovation. Forever is a logical step forward, and they've managed to breathe another fresh breath into today's rock scene in a way that keeps familiarity far from becoming monotonous. There is no sass, no mess, no filler, just down-tuned grooves that are self-complimentary the entire way through. Inarguably one of the year's most solid albums.
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