Job For A Cowboy / Excellent Moon Healer Worth The Wait

Progressive Death Metal outfit Job For A Cowboy have been rather silent for the last nine years. But as frontman and band co-founder Jonny Davy explains, “I had to take a step back in the band for family.”

Job For A Cowboy – Moon Healer (Metal Blade Records)

Release Date: 23 February 2024

Words: Jools Green

“It was the catalyst that eventually created a fork in the road for all of us,” Davy said. “We all drifted into our separate paths, fatherhood, additional music projects, academic degrees, and careers outside the band took priority and life’s focus.”

The band agreed on a prolonged hiatus, with the door open for a return. “Everything lined up for us to collaborate on a new project together,” Davy said. “It was time to cross the threshold for something new.”

2014’s Sun Eater saw a more technical leaning to their sound and an equally complex lyrical inspiration and direction shift. In 2024, Job For A Cowboy continue on in that vein with this latest masterpiece, the eight-track, thirty-nine-minute Moon Healer.

The groundwork for Moon Healer began back in 2018. The result is a crushing work of technical excellence that is well worth the wait.

Job For A Cowboy - Moon Healer album cover
Job For A Cowboy – Moon Healer – “A crushing work of technical excellence that is well worth the wait.”

Job For A Cowboy have continued to evolve their sound from Sun Eater. It’s still both complex and brutal but with a bit more of a concept regarding the ideas and inspiration behind it. Vocalist Jonny Davy says the entire album is the second part of a dark, surreal concept that began with 2014’s Sun Eater

“Sun Eater was an arrangement of melodies inspired by a close friend of the band who lost touch with reality due to excessive hard drug use,” Davy says. “This person was predisposed or was already experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder and/or schizophrenia.

“They believed the drugs were providing them with eye-opening epiphanies. They believed that the drugs allowed them to cross into a reality closer to God. Likewise, they didn’t have the self-awareness that they were falling further down the depths of their own mental illness. The songs reflected the thoughts, ideas, and situations this person encountered.”

In contrast, Moon Healer offers the bands fresh perspective on the protagonist from Sun Eater. Instead of descending into madness, the character achieves transcendence through chemical indulgence.

So, it seems to be a happier ending.

“The concepts in the album follow someone attempting to explore a different human existence,” Jonny continues. “They considered themselves a pseudo-alchemist. They obsessed over esoteric methods to access altered states of consciousness through various pathways, including a focus on the pineal gland, a small endocrine gland within the centre of the brain is believed to potentially play a role in entheogenic experiences.

“They cooked mind-altering consumables. But contrary to what others viewed as their descent into delusion, they were under the belief that they were unlocking the gateway to some form of profound enlightenment.

“When under the influence of these drugs, this individual claimed to encounter entities and find themselves in indescribable worlds that defy rational comprehension.

“Many who undergo such experiences draw intriguing parallels between diverse facets of Gnostic philosophy, biblical depictions of angels, and the stages of Bardo delineated in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.”

The thinking and ideology behind all this is deep and complex. I find this an absolutely fascinating theoretical concept and perfect for Job For A Cowboy’s equally complex musical style.

Moon Healer opens with Beyond The Chemical Doorway, which explores Gnosticism by way of Hieronymus Bosch’s art. The intro of haunting, almost exotic, distant guitars draws you in. The track develops a breathtakingly complex depth and layering to the sound, contrasting superbly with the harsh but clear vocal delivery.

If you aren’t blown away by the complexities, then you will be once the sublime midpoint leadwork kicks in. This is a track that is as beautiful as it is brutal.

Etched In Oblivion is slower, eerier and darker than the predecessor. The pace develops as it progresses, becoming frantically complex with searing leadwork, punchy complex technical swathes and dramatic pace drops and direction shifts. You can’t fail to be enthralled and fully engaged. But don’t drift into a reverie as you listen because the closing fifteen seconds take on such an insanely complex technical twist that will shock you right back into reality again.

I love the opening chunk of brief bass dominance, which then reappears from time to time on Grinding Wheels Of Ophanim. The vocals take on a greater variance, too. Again, it’s a track that is, at times, insanely complex from a technical perspective. The ebbs, builds and pauses work to dramatic effect. The slower passages are darker and more haunting, and the midpoint leadwork is beautifully haunting also.

I love The Sun Gave Me Ashes So I Sought Out The Moon, just for the title alone. The fact that the music is superb is even better. It’s one of those tracks that starts off quiet, thin and distant, rushing towards you with full force. But this is one of the most complex waves of riffs I’ve ever been hit by. Crammed again with dramatically complex technical elements, the scale between ebbs and builds is both dramatic and impressive.

Into The Crystalline Crypts is hauntingly convoluted in the most technical and sublime manner imaginable yet still packing a punch. With superb bass lines, protracted gargling vocal snarls and repeated bursts of soaring leadwork, it is a superb track.

A Sorrow-Filled Moon is reflective and somewhat haunting to open. Much of this reflective, haunting quality continues across the duration of the track. With superb soaring leads, a sublime bass undercurrent and pummelling complex drum patterns, the vocals add extra punch and impact to another complex composition.

The first single released from this album, The Agony Seeping Storm, is even more fascinatingly unconventional than the predecessors. Soaring, mind-blowingly complex, and engagingly up-tempo, I love the slightly fuzzy edge on the leadwork that soars insanely. The riffs are stunningly complex, and the bass lines are downright sexy.

The final and longest piece, The Forever Rot, references Hermes Trismegistus’ Emerald Tablet and later Carl Jung’s philosophies on the death of ego and its relation to drug use. This is hugely and engagingly contrasting in content musically. Building from the distance as it opens with clean reflective guitars, it morphs into a heady meld of large swathes of punishingly punchy and complex riff work and brief, quieter reflective passages that turn hauntingly quirky towards the close. The vocals are growling and snarling throughout, with impactful emphasis. The soaring leadwork is once again sublime.

Moon Healer is a brilliantly thought-out composition and a magnificent listen end to end. It is a grippingly engaging, and technically excellent offering you will want to listen to over and over again.

Sleeve Notes

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