Extreme experimental death metallers JOB FOR A COWBOY will release their first album in 10 years, "Moon Healer" on February 23 via Metal Blade. The follow-up to 2014's "Sun Eater" was produced by Jason Suecof, who has previously worked with TRIVIUM, AUGUST BURNS RED, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, ALL THAT REMAINS, WHITECHAPEL and DEVILDRIVER, among others, and marks the band's first release with new drummer Navene Koperweis, who previously played with JOB FOR A COWBOY vocalist Jonny Davy in the side project FLESHWROUGHT.
But why the extended wait? "I had to take a step back in the band for family. It was the catalyst that eventually created a fork in the road for all of us. We all drifted into our separate paths," explains Davy. "Fatherhood, additional music projects, academic degrees, and careers outside the band took priority and life's focus," so the band agreed on a prolonged hiatus, but with the door open for a return. "Everything lined up for us to collaborate on a new project together, it was time to cross the threshold for something new," states Davy.
Originally based in Arizona, JOB FOR A COWBOY's long-awaited new album is a vivid illustration of what happens when creativity, aggression, and volatility tangle for the first time in years. Like "Sun Eater", "Moon Healer" is musically multifaceted, unabashedly brutal, and compellingly conceptual. The first single, "The Agony Seeping Storm", is a mathematically mind-blowing hybrid of bludgeoning death metal specializing in unconventional riffing that echoes the resemblance of legendary experimentalists like CYNIC, ATHEIST and GORGUTS. A newly refreshed and reinspired lineup — Davy, guitarists Tony Sannicandro and Al Glassman, bassist Nick Schendzielos and Koperweis — all seamlessly pick up the mantle where "Sun Eater" left off. "The Agony Seeping Storm" unequivocally signifies JOB FOR A COWBOY's triumphant return. "The Forever Rot" stands in stark contrast, delving into a lonesome and haunting guitar melody, then evolving into shimmering reflections of OBITUARY, CORONER, VOIVOD and even hints of NEUROSIS. In other words, forget about your preconceived perceptions of what this band was. This twists vocal tropes, chord forms, and melodies into loops of razor wire.
"The evolution of our sound has become a big part of the band," Davy says. "As we mature as musicians, our tastes and interests naturally expand. With age comes more experience and ideas that we wouldn't have considered in our earlier years."
Compared to past offerings, "Moon Healer" is as bone-crushing as JOB FOR A COWBOY has ever been. But it's more consistent and conceptual — composed with the utmost enthusiasm and confidence.
"As most bands have at one point or another found themselves in the situation of having to meet strict deadlines, this was not the case for 'Moon Healer'," Davy says. "We started laying the groundwork for this album in 2018. Being as busy as we were in life, we managed to slowly chip away. This slow pace gave us significantly more time to analyze and dissect what we were doing, which in turn helped make a better album."
When discussing the lyrical genesis of songs like "Beyond The Chemical Doorway", "Grinding Wheels Of Ophanim" and "Into The Crystalline Crypts", Davy's writing gets cryptic and elliptical-sounding, part Philip K. Dick, part Timothy Leary.
"I envision this as a death metal album born from the mystical confines of an alchemist's laboratory," he says. "The music acts as potent potions, inducing hallucinogenic journeys that unlock the secrets of the universe."
Right when it seems like Davy is suffering from some particularly strong psychedelic trip that went wrong, the vocalist explains that the entire album is the second part of a dark, surreal concept that began with "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."
"Moon Healer" offers JOB FOR A COWBOY's fresh perspective on the protagonist from "Sun Eater". Instead of descending into madness, the character achieves transcendence through chemical indulgence.
"The concepts in the album follow someone attempting to explore a different human existence," explains Davy. "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 center 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."
Davy creates vivid, startling, and otherworldly imagery reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley through a combination of studied composition and stream-of-consciousness writing.
"Take me to the divine concept that is not understood by the human eye / The place where only a transcendent image will reside / The walls softly breathe with life as my heart shudders with misery / Cells throughout my flesh vibrate against a devolving visual periphery," Davy shouts over a vortex of snarling guitars and mind-melting bass work with "Into The Crystalline Crypts". In "The Agony Seeping Storm", he immediately references the Emerald Tablet, the ancient text attributed to Hermes Trismegistus: "As above, so below / As within, so without / As the universe, so the soul / I find myself infectiously waiting for a glimpse at the dismal sun." Later references include Carl Jung's philosophies on the death of ego and its relation to drug use.
And in "Beyond The Chemical Doorway", Davy explores Gnosticism (an occult teaching based on Gnosis, a state of transcendence achieved through intuitive, unconventional means) by way of Hieronymus Bosch's art. "Horrors of lower Gnostic realms have been crusted shut and are never to be unsealed / A crystallized coating obscures unraveling hells from my occultic eye, forever to be congealed / But this membrane decalcifies, it exposes the organ of souls It bestows an immense gravity, weaving subatomic black holes / I rot in repetition, an eternal decomposition."
Explaining his morbid wordplay, Davy credits his efforts to tap into the brain's ability to tear down inhibitions and produce horrific visions. "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."
JOB FOR A COWBOY delved deeply into the music of "Moon Healer", as Davy did for the vocals and lyrics. The band traveled to Sanford, Florida to record with Suecof at his Audiohammer Studios. Having already collaborated on three previous records with JOB FOR A COWBOY, the band had developed a strong rapport with Suecof, establishing a level of trust and familiarity.
"Jason Suecof has a supernatural ear in the ability to find hidden potential in music," Davy says about the time in the studio. "We've gone through this same ritual with Jason for a multitude of reasons. But the most obvious one is that he's a masterful songwriter, guitar player, and even vocalist. He has an ear for ideas that very few seemingly have. He totally understands where we're coming from as a band."
"Moon Healer" is the first JOB FOR A COWBOY album to feature session drummer Koperweis (ex-ANIMOSITY). Davy previously worked with Koperweis in the progressive death metal side project FLESHWROUGHT, which released the Metal Blade album "Dementia/Dyslexia" in 2010. Koperweis has also worked as a session drummer for MACHINE HEAD and WHITECHAPEL and is currently in the band ENTHEOS, whose third full-length came out on Metal Blade in March 2023.
"Navene and I shared a bond that goes back to my late teens when we became comrades in the metal scene," Davy says. "Some of JOB FOR A COWBOY's earliest shows and tours were with ANIMOSITY. So, reaching out to Navene to play a major part in this project was a no-brainer."
Although JOB FOR A COWBOY worked tirelessly on their new batch of complex, multi-faceted songs, recording "Moon Healer" was ultimately a labor of love that reminded Davy why he wanted to be in a band in the first place.
"There's so much spontaneity and fun experimentation that occurs when we work with Jason Suecof," Davy says. "It's a nostalgic energy that brings you back to the days when you were teenagers writing riffs in garages."
With "Moon Healer", JOB FOR A COWBOY has woven the thematic qualities of "Sun Eater" and used them as a platform to launch deeper into inner and outer space, using fictional situations to ponder the possibilities of existence outside the carbon-based form. For fans of experimental, progressive, and extreme death metal, "Moon Healer" is a satisfying, transformative metal journey unlike any other. And for those who wish to dig a bit deeper, it's a sonic epiphany, with or without psychoactive substances.