For a group that just consists of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Johanes Barrysmith, Seattle’s Year of the Cobra is surprisingly versatile. Granted, they don’t stray from their fuzzy stoner doom core, but the duo writes different types of songs and knows how to make their dynamic work with each mood. This knack was well established on 2016’s …In the Shadows Below, and their second full-length, Ash and Dust happily offers more of the same.
As with their first album, Ash and Dust is primarily driven by hypnotic mid-tempo numbers. However, these tracks feel more refined in comparison as the structures are leaner, and the vocals are as prominent as the bass work. “Battle of White Mountain” makes for a strong start as its riff set is more straightforward than the seven-minute length suggests, and the vocals help set up a mysterious yet anthemic atmosphere. “The Divine” follows it up with an especially catchy stomp that is mirrored later on with the groovy as hell “Into the Fray.”
A couple outliers show that there’s plenty of room for aggression in a sea of danceable meditation. The title track wouldn’t have been too out of place on 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP as its speedy tempo allows for grittier bass, and the nastier vocals give it a more punk edge. “Demons” follows it up with comparable restraint in its lurching doom and backing synths, but the fuzz is nigh overwhelming, and the vocals keep a certain bite.
But the album’s biggest wild card comes at the end with “In Despair.” The arrangement is stripped down considerably as the drums drop out completely, leaving only clean bass, dreamy vocals, and ominously subtle distortion. It reminds me of one of Windhand’s acoustic songs with a similarly gentle mood and dark atmosphere. It’s unlike anything else they’ve ever done, and I’d be curious to see this template explored more in the future.
While Year of the Cobra hasn’t changed too dramatically on Ash and Dust, the album maintains their momentum quite nicely. The duo’s chemistry remains on point, and the memorable songwriting makes sure that an otherwise meat and potatoes style stays lively. They’ve got an excellent track record, and this album might be the strongest representation of their formula thus far. Strongly recommended to those who want a bass-drum duo that offers more than mere amp worship.
“Battle of White Mountain”