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February 1 2005
Job for a Cowboy - Demonocracy
Technicality is on the rise but a lack of identity still holds them back
Practically everyone is aware of Job for a Cowboy’s deathcore origins and there are some who still use the band’s history against them some seven years later but those who have been willing to ride it out and give the Arizonan’s the benefit of the doubt would also know that whatever they might have been all those years ago simply isn’t who they are today. All but gone are the elements that brought about so much derision from the masses and, in their place, are all of the underpinnings of a technical death metal outfit who, while undoubtedly talented in many ways, are still struggling to translate their impressive instrumental chops into something truly excellent.
Demonocracy is the band’s third full length release and its further branching into technical death metal territory is surely helped along by new guitarist Tony Sannicandro and bassist Nick Schendzielos in no small part. Unfortunately though, in spite of the new blood that pumps within the larger body, the output is still largely devoid of memorable material irrespective of the immense dose of playing prowess on display and it is arguably the one thing that is holding Job for a Cowboy back from being the band that they probably deserve to be.
Regardless of the points I’ve just made, however, there is a lot to like about Demonocracy. The aforementioned technicality of the playing (primarily that of guitarists Tony Sannicandro and Alan Glassman) is genuinely impressive as far as their licks and riffs go, but where it really shines is through the liberal and tasteful use of leads across many of the tracks on offer which not only expands but also enriches the band’s sound in very welcome ways. On top of this is the tight playing of drummer Jon Rice who, in fairness, won’t be winning any awards for his ingenuity or distinctiveness but can easily hold his own against any of his blasting contemporaries as far as his speed and syncopation are concerned. The production too is really quite good and, while absolutely modern sounding, features a clarity and richness that brings out the quality of the playing without sounding clinical and overly sterile.
So, no, my problem with Demonocracy has nothing to do with the playing ability of the band or how the album sounds but rather relates to the overly generic material that has been served up. There are few moments across the nine tracks and 40 minutes of playing time that are memorable enough to warrant excitement or a desire to reach for the album and listen to it over any of the other, more interesting, comparable albums out there. With the exception of the tracks Nourishment Through Bloodshed, Imperium Wolves, and, to a lesser extent, album closer Tarnished Gluttony (each of which are actually rather different stylistically to the rest of the tracks on offer) the album, while definitely technically impressive as stated, provides little in the way of hooks or even real variety which makes for over 30 minutes of music that quickly becomes little more than background noise once your attention has waned, which happens rather quickly I might add.
Ultimately I think what is so disappointing about Demonocracy is that it’s demonstrative of the fact that the technical death metal genre has so quickly become crowded that even some of the most talented acts out there are unlikely to ever get the recognition they deserve because the slightest fault is reason enough for critics and fans alike to weed out a band simply because of the saturation of the market as a whole and not necessarily because the band themselves are doing anything inherently wrong. This is one of those albums that, had it been released say five years ago or so, then my personal take on it perhaps wouldn’t be as harsh as it is now but when it is put up against some of the truly innovative and interesting material that has come out recently, it’s hard not to see the disparity through the veil of impressive chops.
All is not lost for Job for a Cowboy, however, because not only do they have the playing aspect down pat but they are also a band that has undergone a number of line-up changes over their reasonably short recording career. If they can keep this most recent line-up steady then I can’t see any reason that they wouldn’t be able to progress further and create a distinct identity of their own to help elevate them from impressive but rather generic to impressive and truly excellent. Time will tell.
(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)
Added: April 14th 2012
Reviewer: Michael O'Brien
Related Link: Myspace Page
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