Metallattorney introduced me to Cobalt. While they've generated a lot of buzz, I'm willing to bet I'm not the only person who hadn't heard of them before. And I'm going on record saying that anyone with even a passing interest in extreme metal needs to know about Gin.
Cobalt is a two-man band, with the vocalist/lyricist in the military and only able to work on the albums sporadically. It would appear that kind of hardship has yielded something amazing.
As simply as I can put it, they sound like mid-to-late-90's Satyricon covering Tool material from the same period. This is, of course, an over-simplification, but they show the same kind of brilliant interplay between bass and guitar as Tool, similarly phenomenal drumming (see "Two-Thumbed Fist"), and the same knack for including moments of beauty in otherwise aggressive compositions. The tracks tend to start off more in Norwegian black metal, and then branch off to explore other, more progressive or post-metal territory (see "Arsonry").
Like I said, though, that is an oversimplification. "Dry Body" doesn't fit either mold, with its extended droning vocals dark enough to keep a motivational speaker from getting out of bed for a week. They have acoustic/electric interludes of both startling beauty ("Throat") and incredible sadness ("The Old Man Who Lied for His Entire Life").
They also give it a distinctly American feel to go with Hemingway on the cover. "Pregnant Insect" has clean vocals which sound like traditional Native American song. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" is an instrumental with audio clips over the top, which sound like a monologue from a soldier. And to top it all off, there's a hidden track which sounds like Southern prisoners singing at hard labor.
All of these elements fit together seamlessly, with beauty and ugly not just balancing each other, but emphasizing. This is not just great music, this is amazing.
The Verdict: Cobalt deserves every ounce of attention they've gotten for Gin, and probably deserve a lot more. This could well be the high watermark for American black metal. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. This is an album I would seriously consider for my "if you were stranded on a deserted island" list.