February 10, 2013

Cortez - Phœbus

Review by Justin C.

Phœbus is the second album from the Swiss post-hardcore/metal band Cortez. The band plays as a trio, with guitars, drums, and vocals, but they have a credited fourth member who acts as a composer.

Cortez plays full-bore, high-energy metal. The music is dark, but cathartic. The feeling I get from this album is one I often had when playing guitar in my high school days. After a day of teenage frustrations, I would come home, plug in my electric guitar, and slash and grind through any song I could think of, distorted all to hell whether the song sounded good that way or not. (My sludge cover of Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4" will be available for purchase soon.) After an hour or two, I'd finish feeling spent, but freed from whatever I was bothered by. It makes sense to call this album "Phoebus," which is another name for Apollo, the Greek sun god who was also associated with healing. I'd almost describe the music as triumphant. It's the soundtrack I'd want for the end of a torturous mountain climb, or even something more mundane, like claiming victory over a difficult project or an abusive boss.

The band rarely lets up in tempo or energy level, which could be a drain, but the small details keep things interesting. The second track, "Transhumance," starts with a charging guitar riff, frenetic drums, and throat-shredding vocals, but at about two minutes in, the guitar changes to a simple, slow-moving chord pattern. The furious drumming keeps up for a while, gradually thinning down to nothing but a bass drum stomp. Any band can stomp on the brakes and quick-shift into a new section, but subtle changes like this keep this album fresh and interesting.

I've seen this band put into the same category as Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan, and while that makes a certain amount of sense in terms of raw energy, Cortez never really goes as far out as those bands do. The songs are complex in their own way, but more in the sense of off-kilter, syncopated rhythms instead of the full technical freakouts you'd expect from those other bands. The music is straightforward without being simple. Highly recommended if you're looking to get fired up, but you want something with a bit more substance.

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