Tuesday 22 October 2019

Kobra and the Lotus - Evolution (2019)

Country: Canada
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 20 Sep 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

There's something acutely comfortable about Kobra and the Lotus and I wonder if that's why I haven't liked them more in the past.

They're a very easy band to listen to and there's something archetypal about their approach that makes them easy to feel at home with. For instance, this album kicks off with a brief intro, Evodem, which is close to the definition of anticipation in musical form, and then it kicks into the title track just like the band are leaping out onto stage already ratcheted up to high gear. It's a feeling that every band out there aims to evoke in its audience, but Kobra and the Lotus nail it without seeming to even try. Maybe it comes that naturally to them or maybe they work really hard at making us believe that.

They're also a good combination of the old and the new. There's a quiet spot in Evolution that sounds enough like Pink Floyd that old timers like me perk up our attention, but then we roll into Burn!, which is fundamentally modern with its vocal effects, deliberate pauses and patient riffs, almost melodic metalcore in its approach, yet it still feels right to older fans who tend to complain about elements like them. I think the message that comes through is that Kobra and the Lotus are a new band (a mere decade old, even with six albums to their name) who make new music in new styles but who always remain accessible to rock fans who predate them by decades.

As one of those older fans, I liked them from the first time I heard them a few years ago and I find it very difficult not to like anything they do, but I'm no die hard fan and, as you can tell, I'm still trying to figure out why not. I shouldn't complain about how they can sound so ruthlessly commercial while also kicking our asses. They even make a song called Get the Fuck Out of Here sound like it should be a radio hit. That's a glorious, deceptively simple riff and other bands should be jealous.

Really, whatever is sitting in my brain constantly making me doubt myself on this needs to shut up because this is a damn good album. Every single track does its job and a whole bunch of them could be released on their own merits for frequent radio play without ever losing their power. These are not safe ballads; they're all rockers that happen to just have strong hooks layered onto their strong riffs. In fact, it's hard to think which should be top of the list for single release. It was Burn! and that makes a lot of sense, but so would Thundersmith or Wounds or especially We Come Undone.

Why Kobra and the Lotus aren't household names, I have no idea. Kobra Paige has a powerful voice, in an era where the talent shows have made that almost mandatory, and she knows exactly how to use it to its best effect. Listen to her soar on Circus, for instance, where that voice sounds especially larger than she is, and then ponder on how surprising it should be that you aren't focused entirely on her because you're also listening to the music.

And that's probably the key. She's the band's focus because she's cute and blonde and she sounds like a million bucks, but those other guys behind her are so tight that they make her job so much easier. None of them were in the band when it began, back in 2009, and Ronny Gutierrez only joined last year, but they feel like they've all been playing together since the eighties.

The lyricism may be utterly different but, in many ways, Kobra and the Lotus are a modern day Dio. Everything seems easier and simpler than it really is, each song is hard enough to kick our ass but soft enough to play well to a mainstream audience and it's all led by a powerful and recognisable voice. I need to go back to their earlier albums, because I don't remember them being this heavy and this commercial at the same time. Maybe this album is exactly what they need to break through whatever biases some of us have inexplicably conjured up in the past. It's that good.

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