Sweet Cobra's influences draw from His Hero Is Gone, Black Flag and Unsane to the more rock oriented Helmet and newer rock staples High on Fire. Each of these influences can be heard with variations of others, all delivered heavy-hearted and mad as hell. Rock rhythms mixed with hardcore breakdowns and metal guitars allows this band to defy any mold or predictions. Features members of The Hope Conspiracy, Suicide Note, and The Killer.
If nothing else, Chicago’s Sweet Cobra should be congratulated for recording something easily distinguishable. Ever read a certain magazine that has a monthly section where an artist listens to five or so albums and has to guess who he or she is listening to? The artist often gets confused, listing seven bands within the first sentence, and there’s a reason why; metal is an increasingly homogenized genre. That’s why listening to an album like Praise is so refreshing.
When I read a live review detailing a show Sweet Cobra played with Pelican, I knew I was in for something different. I just didn’t expect them to have hairy, sweaty balls, but that’s exactly what they prove with Praise’s High on Fire meets Raging Speedhorn at a surf metal show vibe. There is no one way to describe the band. There’s a pervasive hardcore aesthetic with the crashing, chaotic, and, dare I say, sweet drum sound, but there’s also some extremely groovy riffs that hint at the surf metal tag. Best of all, there’s absolutely no fucking around here. Don’t worry about pretentiously long songs that wear out their welcome, because Sweet Cobra goes straight for the throat with this release, and even on slower songs like “River of Crimson,” the melody sustains throughout and the riffs change often enough to keep the song’s texture shifting appropriately.
If groove is an essential part of your metal diet, you best take more than a mildly interested glance at this release. Nine songs and not one of them worth cutting. Hypnotic hardcore, riff-driven mayhem courtesy of one of Chicago’s finest! I command you, bow down and Praise.
It seems lately that the formation of bands comprised of members of previously established bands is more common than entirely new bands arriving on the scene. It was not until the formation of Sweet Cobra that I saw a name that I was particularly interested in however. That name was Neeraj Kane, formerly of the Suicide File and the Hope Conspiracy, two of the finest hardcore acts in recent memory. Although it was this pedigree that first attracted my attention, it was Sweet Cobra's ability to combine sludgy groove and hardcore intensity that kept it. This new group's debut album "Praise" is one of the most memorable debuts I've heard this year and for that matter, one of the better albums I've heard lately.
"Torn Knees" begins the album with a crunchy riff and rolls right into a cacophonous rocker that pretty much lets the listener know what to expect: equal parts Jesuseater, Neurosis and Cursed mixed with a healthy boost of speed and anger. Riffs like the ones that start this track and "Ruin" are key to Sweet Cobra's sound; the bluesy guitar lines are fuzzed out, updated and backed up by chunky bass. The band takes this all into the down-tempo "Leviathan" and the result is a powerhouse groove that any stoner metal band would be proud to call their own.
While this is the basic blue-print for "Praise," Sweet Cobra throws in enough variety to make this the sort of disc that you don't just put in to hear the first few tracks. The intro to "Content With The Tide" highlights the relatively basic, yet effective drumming alongside Botchy Vasquez's gravely vocals. If you could imagine the pure ferocity of the Suicide File's Dave Weinberg and the powerful presence of Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta, Vasquez's vocals fall somewhere between there. In addition, there is often a heavy reverb effect on them that really adds to the atmosphere of the record.
"River of Crimson" sounds so thick that it practically oozes out of your speakers before "Hatchet Wound" blasts faster and harder than anything else on the record, with two of the album's best riffs complementing each other well before slowing down into yet another killer groove. While this is the disc's immediate stand-out track to me, there is no discernibly weak point on this record. "Fear No Feather" is the perfect closer for this disc, a droning clash of guitar and drums underscored with violins and a faint female vocal. If this sounds lame to you, it's only because a whole lot of bands have definitely done it poorly. In this case, the song fits perfectly and rocks just as hard and solidly as the disc's eight other cuts.
Bottom Line: A lot of very solid records come out every year. Few have immediately grabbed my attention as dramatically as Sweet Cobra's debut. There is something at work here that is entirely their own. We can only hope that other bands of hardcore veterans can put their talents together to create something as interesting as Sweet Cobra.