Released: July, Metal Blade
For such a young band, it appears that Job For A Cowboy have quite a name in the metal community already, and as with other “popular” metal acts like DragonForce, Dimmu Borgir or Children of Bodom, it also appears to be a case of hate them or love them. Having done no wrong other than to take advantage of the Myspace phenomenon (they were signed by Metal Blade on the strength and popularity of their Myspace site), their success has perhaps blinded some to their strengths and positives. Touring with other heavyweights like Amon Amarth and GWAR on the Sounds of the Underground 2007 tour may have contributed to the perception of a band punching way above their weight. In spite of all that, the youngsters from Arizona have released their first full-length album GENESIS following their much-maligned 2005 demo DOOM.
I liked DOOM actually. Well, I like it when listening to it side by side with GENESIS. DOOM was heavily criticised for its deathcore stylings, heavy breakdowns and that incessant “reep-reep” pig squealing. But, and this is a major “but”, it had character. The songs felt slapdash, spontaneous, almost carefree. The guitars were heavy but the playing wasn’t as tight as it should have been, the drumming was slightly amateurish and the pig squealing got too much too quickly (I still like it though – I think it adds a different dimension to monotonous growling). But it felt great, it felt like Cattle Decapitation on Ecstasy.
GENESIS on the other hand feels tame. Sure, the production is awesome (mixed by Andy Sneap – Arch Enemy, Kreator), every instrument is clear as a bell. The pig squealing is gone, and I do mean completely gone. The breakdowns are almost completely removed. It’s fast, it’s heavy, it’s unforgiving. But, and this is also a major “but”, it just feels tame and sanitised. You can almost hear the work put into arranging the songs just so, writing them just so, tweaking everything just so. That’s a difficult position I’ve put them in – damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
It’s very good death metal, no doubt about it, and no doubt I’m making a big deal of nothing. I’m supposed to tell you about the damn album aren’t I. One solid tangible complaint I can make is that the songs almost all sound alike, very little variation. That was one thing DOOM had going for it, it had variety: haphazard breakdowns when you least expected it; a pinch harmonic here and there; and screams, growls, squeals, and shouts in equal and carefree abundance. There are two “instrumental” tracks here that serve to break up the pace, but I really didn’t think much of them – the techno-tinged “Upheaval” sounds like it was culled from a post-apocalyptic movie soundtrack, and “Blasphemy” is another weird atmospheric piece.
It feels like JFAC trawled the internet forums and chatboards to see what criticism was levelled against them, and then took steps to remedy them. They took out the pig squealing. They took out the breakdowns. They toned down the completely random nuttiness that pervaded DOOM. And by doing so, they lost their unique sound. KILL 'EM ALL was amateurish, but it was raw, it was unrestrained, it was the four (or five?) of them playing their hearts out, fuck the consequences. RIDE THE LIGHTNING had supreme production, it was well written, it was measured and toned just so. Which do you like? For JFAC, I prefer the juvenilia of DOOM to the stateliness and grown-up-ness of GENESIS.
Lastly, no JFAC review would be complete without me saying: What a fucking stupid name for a death metal band!