Job For A Cowboy - Moon Healer

Artist: Job For A Cowboy

Album Title: Moon Healer

Label: Metal Blade Records

Date of Release: 23 February 2024

I’ve written each of the four words independently hundreds of times. However, I never thought I’d ever put them all together in this order: Job For A Cowboy. When this ridiculously named band burst on to the scene with their debut EP, ‘Doom’ in 2005, it was anything but. It should’ve been titled ‘metalcore’ or ‘deathcore’ perhaps. But not ‘Doom’. I had a cursory listen at the time given all the hyperbole that came from one side, and all the cynical band bashing that came from the other. After getting through maybe a couple of the tracks I found that I tended to side with the latter, although instead of trashing the band, I just remained silent, went off on another tangent, and let others get their knickers in a twist.

Ever since, I have given Job For A Cowboy a wide berth. With this being their first album release in a decade, and because I’d like to think that my tastes have evolved over time, I thought I’d give ‘Moon Healer’ a listen. After all, the cover artwork is pretty good, and there was significant chatter about it on social media. I was intrigued.

As it turns out, I was a little taken aback when I first heard the music on album number five, ‘Moon Healer’. Unless my ears were deceiving me, I was hearing progressive death metal, not deathcore. And my ears are correct, because ‘Moon Healer’ is definitely a technical, progressive death metal record, from beginning to end. This unexpected revelation meant that I listened more, and with a lot more interest than perhaps I otherwise might have done. I just wasn’t expecting this.

Mind you, given the fact that only vocalist Jonny Davy remains from that 2005 debut EP, it’s hardly surprising that Job For A Cowboy have grown and evolved. In 2024, Davy is joined by guitarists Al Glassman (rhythm) and Tony Sannicandro (lead) and bassist Nick Schendzielos, as well as studio session drummer Navene Koperweis. I just didn’t imagine for one second that they may have evolved quite so much.

My first impression beyond surprise, was that the music on ‘Moon Healer’ was impressive from a purely instrumental and technical perspective. In all positions, you can hear the talent and the technique in abundance, but it’s the rhythm section that, for me, steals the show here. Whether it’s blasting out the fast material or stepping back to provide more of a nuanced beat, Koperweis delivers the goods behind the kit, creating the framework upon which the rest are keen to build. He’s joined by Schendzielos who puts in one hell of a shift, too. This album is liberally laced with some incredibly interesting bass playing that either sits comfortably within the compositions or comes to the fore to dazzle with effervescent panache and a sense of playfulness, too.

Job For A Cowboy - Moon Healer

This then brings me on to another positive, which is the production here on ‘Moon Healer’. With so much technical ability on display, it’d be a travesty to ruin the experience with a poor mix, thereby rendering some of the performances within the compositions indistinct or completely absent. On this album, you can hear everything thanks to an excellent sound that allows plenty of separation and clarity. I just wish this had been the production on the latest Vitriol album, for example, as it might have made all the difference there.

Can you sense a ‘but’? If you can, then I’m afraid you’d be right. The elephant in this particular room is arguably the most important of all of the various ingredients: the songwriting.

I’ve listened to ‘Moon Healer’ a number of times through, but each time, it feels like it’s the first. And that’s because I struggle to hear anything that genuinely grabs my full, undivided attention. It is a very smooth and easy album to listen to, if that makes sense, thanks to the accomplished musicianship and the strong production. And throughout most of the compositions, there are vague hints of melody, of something more memorable. But it never really fully materialises and doesn’t ever grab me to the point where I’m desperate to hear it all over again. There are solos galore, blastbeats, moments of aggression and power, not to mention the instrumental gymnastics all over the place. But for me, the songs lack a spark, be that in the form of a crushing groove, over-the-top intensity, or an irresistible hook or melody. None of the eight tracks deliver what I would class as a killer blow, and ultimately, that’s what frustrates me the most with this album.

It also means that this is the first review that I believe I’ve ever written where I don’t mention a single track. That’s so unusual for me, but I just don’t feel as if any of the songs are deserving of a particular mention. None of them are bad per se, it’s that they are ultimately unremarkable and simply form part of a forty-minute homogenous mass of music that tries hard, but ultimately fails to inspire me. I genuinely love tech death, and I’m delighted that Job For A Cowboy have moved away from their deathcore roots to embrace this style of music. I just wish they’d paid more attention to the songwriting and less on their own individual performances. It’s so frustrating because I really wanted to like this album, too.

The Score of Much Metal: 69%



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