Cormorant is a band that has defied convention from the beginning. The group sprang to life in early 2007, formed when a quartet of talented Bay Area musicians came together with the goal of writing music without stylistic boundaries. For an unabashedly metal band, Cormorant’s members hail from a number of unusually diverse backgrounds. While Arthur von Nagel grew up on folk rock and classical music, guitarist Nick Cohon played acoustic as a member of old-time country band The Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers. Percussionist Brennan Kunkel spends his free time making hip-hop beats, and the other three members recruited guitarist/vocalist Matt Solis at an Enslaved gig. The eclectic nature of their musical interests undoubtedly contributes to the band’s propensity for experimentation and genre bending. With influences ranging from Agalloch and Enslaved to Amorphis, Slough Feg, Cynic, My Dying Bride, Sleep, Dissection, Fleurety, Sigh, Diabolical Masquerade, Immortal, and a host of others, Cormorant’s sound is as difficult to describe as it is to resist.
After recording a 3-song demo, the band played a string of successful shows around the Bay Area with bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Black Cobra, Withered, Giant Squid, Hammers of Misfortune, Saviours, Slough Feg , Helms Alee and Grayceon, surprising crowds with their proclivity for improvising whole songs on the spot. Local radio play soon followed, as well as the endorsement of master luthier Greg Nelson, who built Arthur’s signature fretless and fanned-fret basses and Nick’s custom Explorer. Cormorant’s debut EP, The Last Tree, was released in December 2007 to overwhelmingly positive reviews. Recorded at Sausalito’s Studio D (of Faith No More and Soundgarden fame), the EP explores many facets of the black, death, thrash, doom, and folk metal sub-genres while still referencing the formative influences that make Cormorant’s music unique. Nick comments: “I have no problem introducing a blues-based guitar solo into a Norwegian black metal piece if the song calls for it. Why worry about rules?” Arthur agrees. “Other music genres have so much to offer. Hardly any metal players are utilizing the tonal advantages of fretless bass guitar.” Arthur’s own voice and lyrics play a major part in the Cormorant sound. “Some have trouble with harsh vocals,” he admits, “but I think if people can get into Tom Waits, they can enjoy this. Once you get used to the singing, you realize how essential it is to the presentation of the music, and eventually you’re even able to understand the lyrics.” The words to Cormorant’s songs are of a style seldom seen in metal, and play an integral part in the band itself; his involvement in Cormorant originally stemmed from von Nagel’s desire to bring those words to life. “The lyrics start off as poems, mostly influenced by French Romantic and Symbolist literature, then I combine that with American folk music’s story-telling and old-school punk’s sense of social unrest.” Brennan loves that kind of contrast. “You need a balance of brutality and beauty to fully appreciate both,” he explains. “If I’m dropping blast-beats the whole album, it all ends up sounding the same, and it’s not scary or impressive anymore.” Matt smiles and adds, “Sometimes you have to lull your listeners into a false sense of security.”
Fast-forward two years (including a successful Paganfest appearance alongside the likes of Primordial, Moonsorrow and Korpiklaani under heir belts) and Cormorant’s sound has evolved even further on their upcoming full-length, Metazoa. Recorded and mixed in January 2009 at Sharkbite Studios by legendary producer Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Mr. Bungle, Eyehategod, Melvins, Sleep, Primordial) and mastered by Justin Weis (Slough Feg, Brocas Helm, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra) at Trakworx Studios, Metazoa sees the band fully come into their own as one of the most creative, innovative heavy metal groups of the new century. With a sound rooted in death metal and steeped in melody, that combines the folk-tinged atmosphere of Agalloch and Falkenbach with the progressive-minded black metal of newer Enslaved and the galloping heavy metal thunder and epic guitar harmonies of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, Cormorant are far more than the sum of their parts, and are sure to appeal to all fans of true heavy metal in all its forms. Alongside friends and like-minded souls in Hammers of Misfortune, Ludicra, Giant Squid, and Asunder, Cormorant have established themselves as one of the brightest rising stars of the once again burgeoning San Francisco metal scene, and with the September 22nd, release of their debut full-length, Metazoa, promise to continue their graceful rise to the top.