The endless highway to heavy has many lanes. Some metal bands get there via rhythm alone; others use riff crunchiness. And then there are bands like Black Cobra, which achieves maximal heaviness via the sheer sonic wallop of the guitar sound. On this follow-up EP to the band’s 2006 full-length, Bestial, vocalist/guitarist Jason Landrian (ex-Cavity) employs that hyperdriven guitar sound favored by stoner acts Electric Wizard and Torche. Even at low volumes, Landrian’s ax sucks the air around it as if his amp were a jet engine, layering the entire frequency spectrum in resin and making a bassist unnecessary (Black Cobra ain’t got one).
That guitar dominates Black Cobra’s sound so fully that it’s easy to overlook the intricacy of the songs on Feather and Stone. “Five Daggers” and “The Sapphire Falcon” bash through fuzzy off-time riffs; “Red Tide” starts as a ferocious cavalry gallop, then slows mid-stream to a stomach-churning doom epic, only to exit on the same black hoofbeats it rode in on. Riffs rumble through like hulking medieval war machines, powered by the tireless piston-pumping of drummer Rafael Martinez (former bassist of 16 and Acid King).
Feather and Stone hews a little close to recent High on Fire songs, down to the buried-deep vocals and the meandering interludes (there’s no need for the solo guitar instrumental “Thanos” on a twenty-five-minute EP), but that’s really the only gripe here. The members of Black Cobra keep their tracks short, their riffs loose and their approach free of pretense, and the three perfectly recorded live videos included on the disc show that the band sounds every bit as massive on the road — no surprise for a group that’s logged eleven U.S. and international tours in just more than a year. When the riff cyclones of closing track “Swords for Teeth” finally stop spinning, you’ll gladly let Black Cobra keep your ears.