It’s been five years since BLACK COBRA released its last album, “Invernal”, and the band’s return means a hell of a lot to the sludge underground. If you’re unfamiliar with BLACK COBRA, the band is the bombastic duo from San Francisco: guitarist Jason Landrian, formerly of CAVITY, and drummer Rafael Martinez, one-time bassist for ACID KING. Their scorching new album “Imperium Simulacra” finds the pair in peak condition and willing to thrash as much as trudge.
The album opens with the blisteringly abrasive title track “Imperium Simulacra”, a speedy track reminiscent of HIGH ON FIRE—it’s a mauler. Landrian’s rasps differ in pitch from Matt Pike’s and his riffs are hurled in a higher key, but otherwise, this one’s a similar discharge of shredding fun. Next up, “Challenger Deep” is a pumping song that will satiate both sludge heads and thrashers. Rafael Martinez rips into a fast pound following a trudging intro and repeats the cycle for a second round. Jason Landrian woofs and snarls while dishing up tasty riffs worthy of KYLESA and even FU MANCHU. “The Messenger” offers more bombastic deep drum tones reminiscent of a dessert session, while promoting inescapable headbanging.
The 8:26 “Fathoms Below” works itself through slower albeit denser progressions. Again, BLACK COBRA mirrors KYLESA as Jason Landrian and Rafael Martinez noodle and jam for two minutes before assuming a winding course, one that grows louder yet more complex. The blustery course they set drops them into a raging sequence of harrying notes before BLACK COBRA hammers it all to gory pieces. Later in the album, Landrian and Martinez make it a point to drone through the 7:15 “Dark Shine” for five minutes with brutal slide chords and slow clubbing before momentarily hitting the thrusters. “Dark Shine” finishes where it begins, fading into a psychedelic ether.
As fast as much of the preceding songs are, “Obsolete” goes into hyperdrive as Rafael Martinez floors the gas even harder, plowing into grind turf. The choruses, while slower, are still rock ‘em sock ‘em and “Obsolete” is freaking fierce. Churning the hell out of “Sentinel (Infinite Observer) “ for bars on end, Jason Landrian manages to squeeze in a moment of grandeur with guitar work kissed by the astronomic planes. It’s a moment to inhale and savor, as “Technical Demise” wraps this album with a frenzied bang.
Straight-up, BLACK COBRA decimates every square inch of “Imperium Simulacra” and woe be to any act daring to slot them as openers. Jason Landrian and Rafael Martinez are absolute monsters with veteran touring cred; anyone following these dudes is set upon the mean task of trying to outclass them.