Job for a Cowboy
Release Date: 4/10/2012
Metal Blade Records
Let me preface this review by saying that I do not consider myself much of a death metal fan. I enjoy a few select bands within the genre, such as The Black Dahlia Murder, and a few others who have taken death metal to new territories like Death or Cynic. Beyond that, though, I’m what some in the metal community would call a “pussy” because I will take Whitechapel over Cannibal Corpse any day. And I’m ok with that, because when an album like Job for a Cowboy’s Demonocracy comes along, I feel like I get my fill of the shred for quite a while.
Unfortunately, the first thing one always has to address when discussing a JFAC release is their past. Originating as a deathcore band with enough breakdowns and pig squeals to supply the soundtrack to a documentary on slaughterhouses, their debut effort Doom has become reviled by the metal community and is frequently used as an example of “what not to do.” This is not modern JFAC, though, and you’d do well to check out their later material, all of which is modern death metal with some nice technical teeth.
With that out of the way, Demonocracy shows JFAC further refining the death metal sound established on Ruination and Gloom. Guitarists Al Glassman and Tony Sannicandro frequently flex their soloing muscles, and these prove to be the highlights of the record, as the solos are energetic and immediate. The soaring licks on lead single Nourishment Through Bloodshed really get the blood pumping (pun intended), and the extended shredding on Fearmonger is a fantastic explosion of energy.
Several things come to mind when listening to this album, but the most consistent theme throughout is a feeling of absolute urgency. Obviously the lightning chops of the players contribute to this, and the tempos are consistently speedy throughout. However, JFAC manage to inject the same feeling into the construction of their riffs and songs, which is not an easy thing to do when so many bands are content to rely on chugs. The aforementioned Nourishment Through Bloodshed is a constant blast of adrenaline, and Black Discharge feels like The Black Dahlia Murder on cocaine, with spastic bursts of guitar and stop-start precision drumming.
From a vocal standpoint, Demonocracy is competent if a little bland. Jonny Davy alternates between guttural death growls and hawk screeches, creating a dark atmosphere with a serrated edge. Unfortunately he falls victim to the same pitfall as many death metal vocals, and the lyrics are largely unintelligible. The performance is still enjoyable, as Davy delivers plenty of spine-chilling moments, such as the piercing scream at the end of The Manipulation Stream. I just can’t help but wish we could have been treated to some comprehensible lyrics that would deliver the same intensity as the music, something contemporary bands like Whitechapel have already proven is possible.
If there’s anything seriously wrong with this album it’s that the musicians too frequently veer into masturbatory territory. Listening to the album, you get the feeling that at certain times the band was more concerned with showing off their chops than with writing aggressive and engaging music. More often than not the most guilty party here is drummer John Rice, who employs a nonstop barrage of 16th and 32nd notes (nonmusicians: very fast) on his kick drums. It’s as if his feet never stop flailing, and I suppose they really don’t because every track opens with increasingly brutal levels of double kick. In some ways, this adds to the wonderfully frantic feel of the record, but I have to wonder whether Rice could have attempted some more subdued playing to greater effect. The closest the band gets to taking a breather is on the beginning moments of track four, Tongueless and Bound, which employs a comparatively relaxed guitar riff, but even this is quickly swept up in a storm of blast beats and guitar wanking.
Demonocracy is an enraged beast rampaging through legions of helpless victims. It makes no concessions, it gives no quarter. Jonny Davy and the gang launch a sensory assault on listeners that is immediately full-blast and doesn’t let up until the final minutes of the last track. If you can’t handle death metal’s tropes then I would advise you to stay far, far away from Demonocracy, because you’ll only find suffering. If you can stomach the outright violence present in this music, though, Job for a Cowboy have a lot to offer, and Demonocracy is one lean mean fighting machine.