Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cortez - The Depths Below

Yes, one of my favourite tribes from Massachusetts are back with a smoker of an album, 'The Depths Below'. After 5 long years of no recordings – apart from a brilliant 7” split Borracho - the stars finally aligned and the guys got together to stir up some stuff. This eventually, and thankfully, led to the birth of the new record and the return of Cortez. And what a return it is! So I’m not going to bitch about the long wait…….

Where do I start with this barn-burner of an album? Like I mentioned above it’s such a joy to have them back, pure and simple. But that emotion might cloud what actually is going on. However, there is nothing to fear as Cortez surpasses themselves a thousand-fold times over. The music is super focused, free-flowing and unshackled with a ferocious bite to match. Add a full, rich production to the equation and you have a band holding nothing back as well as destroying any naysayers without batting an eyelid. They have also retained the Cortez sound but upped the ante by being more in your face, as well as adding even sharper riffs than before, completely obliterating the listener in the process.

‘All Gone Wrong’ sets the mood right away, kicking up dirt as the band pile drives straight through my head. A super heavy rhythm section paves the way for ruthless riffs to rip me apart. Slowing things down just a touch and opting for a chest crushing approach, ‘Poor And Devoid’ is relentless to say the least. ‘Walk Through Fire’ unleashes the fury with furious riffs running parallel with some intense solos as Cortez opens the door to the trilogy ‘In The Shadows Of Ancients’. Part 2, ‘The Citadel’ is a slower composition and has a strong mystic, Middle Eastern feel. Hypnotic and mesmerizing it picks up in the verses. After a blistering solo the band kicks into full stoner riffaganza and yours truly is bouncing off the walls. ‘Blood Of Heirs’ ends the trilogy and this is a full-on metal frenzy. Going wide open this is not for those with a weak heart or degenerative discs because Cortez brings an onslaught and a half, and it’s bloody fantastic!

Pummeling with a head rush of monstrous proportions while facing the maelstrom that is ‘To The Skies’, I realize there’s no point in fighting these guys. Just let them sweep you away through the soul searching chorus to the punishing verses. Trippy and dreamlike at first with a mellow yet eerie vibe, ‘Kill Your Ghosts’ eventually shift gears and the twin-axe attack from Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan blows me away. ‘Dead Channel’ is slightly different than the rest. After a spaced-out intro followed by a brief burst of punk it weaves back and forth between snarly vocals in desert sound mode and gang-like chanting bringing it back to punk again. Confusing? Not at all, if you ask me. Cortez do blend a lot of styles into this composition but it works amazingly well. In fact, ‘Dead Channel’ is one of my favourites. Speaking of styles, closer ‘Orison’ is a fantastic homage to doom legends Candlemass akin to their pièce de résistance, ‘Solitude’. Singer Matthew Harrington does an amazing job as does bass man Jay Furlo and drummer Jeremy Hemond. They keep it tight and heavy allowing their string slingers to excel.

I can’t stress enough how damned great ‘The Depths Below’ is, waveriders! Having followed and liked Cortez for years, I know how bloody amazing they are. Still, this new album floors me over and over again as I am stunned by the sheer brilliance these guys display. As a music fan that’s the best feeling there is when one of your favourites completely annihilates the world with their new wax. Thank you and welcome back, Cortez!


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