Eater of Birds

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Cobalt's ├╝ber-cult legend grew to a deafening underground buzz with the release of their second full-length work, 2007's cryptically named Eater of Birds, their first release through new business partners Profound Lore Records. Here, the Colorado black metal duo really hit its creative stride and began forging a unique identity not always evident in the Scandinavian and Australian (as in raw and battle-obsessed) black metal influences heard on Cobalt's 2005 debut, War Metal. Having said that, there was no sign of a truce being called here, given the tribal war drum tattoos and remorseless sonic sandblasting delivered at the start of album opener "When Serpents Return," and it's only when the same song undergoes half a dozen strategic alterations of tempo, riff, and tone that one can gauge the full scale of Cobalt's evolution. Likewise, although black metal fundamentals still dominate most of these frameworks (see "Blood Eagle Sacrifice," "Cephaloped," the title track), they don't forbid a number of songs from repeatedly challenging basic conventions with glimmers of sublime melodic beauty -- particularly longer, strikingly progressive ones such as the bitterly lovelorn "Ulcerism," the apocalyptic "Invincible Sun," and the spine-shivering "Witherer" (which threatens a methodical form of liquid decay). And then there are the three relatively quiet instrumental interludes -- all curiously named "Ritual Use of Fire" -- that are scattered across the album like contemplative cease-fires, and driven largely by acoustic guitars and disconcerting atmospheric sound effects (see also the abstractly named "Androids, Automatons and Nihilists"). In their totality, these diversified efforts amounted to an impressively eclectic and surprisingly fluid listening experience that, while not quite on par yet with black metal's avant-garde elite, proved that Cobalt were on the cusp of a breakthrough.