Burn Your Dead by Year of the Cobra

Release date: October 27, 2017
Label: Magnetic Eye Records

For some reason, this record casts my mind back to the 1980’s. Not the wine cooler, synth-pop, massive shoulder pads, ‘greed is good’ parts of the decade: no way. The good bits: the era of Repo Man, Animal Chin, big choruses and Too Tough to Die.

It might be because the vocals remind me of Pat Benatar. Or it could be that the gutsy fuzz enriching the bass on the title track sounds like one accompanying a segment on a long forgotten surf or skate video. Maybe it’s the super-catchy “woah ooh woah” in ‘The Howl’.

Who knows. But one thing is for sure: this record has a sneer, a swagger – two attributes which will come as no surprise to those who heard Year of the Cobra‘s excellent 2016 debut album …In the Shadows Below.

But as well as that, it also has a whole heap of melody and thoughtful songwriting; the sort that makes the listener forget completely that the big, thick, satisfying soundworld that the husband and wife duo of Jon and Amy create is made up of only a bass guitar aided by an array of pedals, along with a brutally bashed drumkit. Sure a piano pops up here and there, but most of the noise comes from only two instruments.

 

If you are looking for a point of reference from Year of the Cobra’s debut album, then ‘Persephone’ is a good place to start. Because the songs on Burn Your Dead are of the upbeat kind, rather than the fantasy laden doom that made up most of their debut LP.

Having said that, this record is a big step forward from …In the Shadows Below. There is more confidence in their own songwriting and melody is far more to the forefront – a wise move, given the vocal skills of Amy.

But for all this talk about melody, the opening track, ‘Cold’ is downright spooky in places. It has a rumbling, tense bass and textbook quiet-loud dynamics. The eerie interlude, with voices darting in and out and sparse piano which builds to the climactic chorus, is a highlight.

‘The Descent’, on the other hand, has an almost jaunty rhythm, aided by big, fat bass chords. It is unashamedly poppy (which is a compliment) with its familiar ‘rock ‘n’ roll ballad’ chord progression, aided by a piano, and ear-worm of a chorus. It should be mentioned that it has a massive widescreen sound, thanks no doubt to the production wizardry of Billy Anderson. Yes, that Billy Anderson, who made the Melvins, Hellchild and countless other bands sound great.

The title track is by far and away the highlight of the record. It starts fast – like almost punk fast. It begins with a buzzing bass riff that Lemmy from Motörhead would have been proud of and has shouty gang vocals in the chorus, plus a heavy breakdown, all of which make you want to buy a boogie van and drive very fast. Put it this way: it was no shock at all to see a hot rod in the video for the song.

‘The Howl’ slows things down a little and after a restrained yet heavy intro, it opens into a fantastic melody, which contains the aforementioned ‘woah ooh woahs’. The tempo is raised again – only to stoner-rock levels this time – for the finale, ‘And they Sang…’. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the chorus is one to stick in your head for a while.

The whole song is under four minutes long but in that time you get the distinct feeling that Year of the Cobra are not to be messed with. If I ever achieve my long-standing ambition to make a movie about organ transporters (long story) then this song would be near the front of the queue for the scene where the protagonists escape in a fast car. One from the 1980’s, of course.

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