Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pulp Magazine Review: Cog - Culling

Heads up! We've just had a review in Pulp Magazine. Many thanks to Vernon, Joey, Jason and the rest of the crew. We really do appreciate all the support you've given us through the years. So buy the magazine, people, and get plugged into the local scene.

COG - Culling
(Tower of Doom)
Rating: 4

For more traditional metal fans like myself, there’s always been that one small detail about modern, new-school metal that had me almost immediately reverting back to my old Metallica and Slayer records after a period of listening to anything new; not that it was a bad thing, but I could sort of always tell when a modern metal band had strayed too far from the formula, in an effort to keep things fresh, understandably. Though the whole detuning, odd-time bit did impress the hell out of me (especially with the advent of local bands like Sin and foreign bands like Mastodon and Tool, even, though many may argue they aren’t exactly “metal…”), again, it was always such classics as Pantera’s A Vulgar Display of Power or Metallica’s Master of Puppets that proved that less is more.

Which is why Cog’s first album Conflagration – despite its adventurous and unapologetically varied approach – didn’t make as large a mark on my ears compared to the band’s earlier material, released via an independent EP called Contact, which featured straight-up hardcore/metal-influenced tunes like “2 1/2“ and “Collide.” Though Conflagration was a landmark in modern Philippine metal history for being a release that sounded uniquely their own, it seemed as if Cog was still in taking baby steps in terms of what they were going to do musically, having so many options at the time.

Which is why Culling easily surpasses the impact and urgency of the band’s debut, mainly because the band’s absence in the studio for the past three years has them foaming at the mouth and hungry to better themselves the second time around, without sacrificing their trademark musical direction. Exploding foremost with an ominous trifecta of instrumental “Dissolve,” the charging “Promethean,” and the riff-heavy and rhythmically searing track “Illumination,” it’s obvious that a new breath has been introduced within the members, who produce a tighter-than-usual output that has finally gelled together after years of trying hard to infuse as much as they can. In a nutshell, it sounds more natural, and the odd-times and little tricks within the songs are more cohesive than one would expect, being a band that does have a knack for odd times.

But it’s just not the double-time tracks that shine on this release, but sonically, the half-tempo grooves are also much improved-on, as the production and mixing finds the guitars nice and crunchy, instead of being too compressed, while Garon Honasan’s saxophone textures are a lot more well-calculated and are no longer afraid to go against the melody unlike again, in the previous albums. Even drummer Alan Po delivers a tighter performance, exploring his kit more and revisiting tried-and-tested stacatto runs, as the guitar riffs from Eric Perlas and Joel Patricio are still in tip-top shape and backed-up by the low rumble of bassist Richie Ramos. The sound, though still clean and well-produced, has a new characteristic rumble absent the last time around, plus is finally right in the middle of being neat yet having just the right amount of grit and grime (as on “So Be It” and the excellent “The Onus”). And when it comes to the vocals, Yagi Olaguera tears out a new one with varied vocal styles, and lyrically weaves more consistent tales of despair and struggle, while being more conscious of melody and how it matches the words. And if it’s a combination of all that I’ve mentioned above, then you’ll bet your money on “Calliope” and the ├╝ber-compelling “I Am The Storm,” both tracks perfectly summing up the new band we hear before us. It’s an added bonus that the band decides to finish as strong as they started this time around with the pull-out-the-stops battle cry of “From These Ashes” (a driving rhythm, gang vocals, defiant lyricism: ”Our vengeance is accomplished and our oath fulfilled” – gnarly, isn’t it?), but it’s also a pretty neat trick they pull off with the instrumental closer “Congeal,” which cleanses the mood for perhaps one more spin for those who wish to partake of the goods Cog has provided. Chances are, this is one album you’d want to revisit over and over again, because there’s so much waiting to be discovered in the second or third spin, but cleverly well-placed and not dragging in any way.

Culling is definitely a good reason for fans of modern metal and even hard rock fans to gather together and enjoy the creativity and exceptional musicianship the six members of Cog are known to deliver.

Understandably, this second release tops the first in terms of being tight, and well-thought-of in terms of the progression of its entirety. Though the material still isn’t exactly radio material (a lot of songs still clock-in past the three-minute mark…), I’m pretty sure it’s this album that wins over the newer fans, and even the skeptics who didn’t know what to make of the band. This is definitely Cog at their finest.

Members:  Yagi Olaguera (vocals), Eric Perlas (guitars), Dylan Pizarro (guitars), Richie Ramos (bass), Alan Po (drums), Garon Honasan (saxophone)
Years Active: 2000 – present
Type of Music: metal/modern metal
Previous Releases: Conflagration (2006), Contact EP (2004)

Recently releasing their second full-length Culling, Cog is still pushing the limits when it comes to the genre by refusing to be boxed in by the stereotypical trappings of traditional metal styles and textures. Adding anything and everything including a saxophone to the mix, the horizons continue to expand for this hardworking 6-piece. Recently, guitarist Dylan Pizarro was brought in as a replacement to longtime guitarist Joel Patricio. Cog will be launching its album soon within the year and looks to embark on another round of Tower of Doom’s Siege Tour.

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