Mar 182014

Phil McSorleyCobalt

I had to deal with a load of personal shit yesterday, and I do mean a load of shit. For the second time in about six months, my car was broken into on Sunday night while parked in a lot on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Passenger side window smashed in — again. Laptop and other personal valuables stolen — again. When will I learn? I’d like to come across the motherfucker who did this. Killing would be excessive, but I could live with myself if I permanently crippled him.

And then, after spending a crapload of time trying to figure out how to get my car window replaced (again), changing internet passwords to be safe, and working on replacing everything that was stolen, I somehow managed to load malware into my PC at work — the one I almost never use because I prefer to use my MacBook (the one that was stolen) because shit like that never happens to it. And so I had to surrender that PC to our IT department to figure out how to clean it up, leaving me to sit around with my thumb up my butt.

To sum up, my feeble plans to live some kind of blog life yesterday were basically fucked like a tethered goat.

And when I finally did get back on line, I found some unfortunate metal news items. And other bad things happened, too. But I’ll just stick with the unfortunate metal news items, because no matter what other people may tell you when you’re in the dumps, tales of personal woe are never welcome.



When I finally got back on line late yesterday I discovered two resignations from members of two noteworthy bands — one of the bands being a big deal in global metal circles and one being much more under-the-radar, but at least as good. And I’m starting with the bad news about the second one.

Cobalt began under a different name as the solo project of Phil McSorley and then really became something rare and wonderful when Erik Wunder joined McSorley and Cobalt was born. They weren’t prolific music-makers, in part because McSorley was in the US Army serving tours of duty in such places as Iraq and South Korea (and you don’t find many people who juggle Army careers with membership in a black metal band, do you?). But their albums were quite good, and the last one — 2009’s Gin — was downright stunning.

Late yesterday McSorley posted this message on the Cobalt Facebook page:

From McSorley:

I have decided to quit Cobalt. I am grateful for what Cobalt started from, and the impressive amount of people affected by its music. I still feel a connection with the work we did, but I no longer feel that I am a part of its vision.

Cobalt started with Erik and I making angry and heartfelt music, that later moved into more expressive music. It held a ton of symbology to my life, and for its help in making me who I am I am grateful.

I will continue to make music on my own terms, but for me Cobalt is best left where it is. Thanks to all for the years of friendship and support. If Erik continues to create under the name Cobalt I support his decision. He was always a genius anyway.

This is one of those farewells that, while undoubtedly honest, leaves you with a load of questions about what wasn’t said. It really doesn’t explain McSorley’s reasons for leaving Cobalt; and when he says he’ll continue to make music on his own terms,  the implication is that maybe Cobalt no longer left room for that. One of the questions left unanswered is what has become of the album, to be named Slow Forever, that McSorley said would be recorded by Cobalt after an East Coast tour last spring.

But hey, it’s not that I think he owes anyone an explanation — he doesn’t owe me or you shit. But I can’t help being frustrated at this turn of events and curious about what led to it. Yet even though the message is cryptic, it’s still very classy.

I guess this means I won’t get to see Cobalt live, which is a shame. They played Maryland Deathfest last year, and people I know who saw the performance told me it was one of the true highlights of the whole festival. Fortunately, videographer Frank Huang was there for Cobalt’s performance, filming from right in front of the stage. I’ve featured one of his videos of the performance here before, and I’ll embed it again below.

The song is a combo of “Throat” and “Stomach” from Gin, and the video and audio quality are good. In the music, there is a calm before the storm, not quite peaceful, a hint of something coming. When the black skies open, it rains fuckin’ hard. This is one hell of a badass jam.





lifted from Metal Injection


I guess I don’t need to provide background about Sweden’s Arch Enemy. I’ll just go right to Angela Gossow’s announcement yesterday:

Dear Arch Enemy fans, this is not easy to tell you…I have decided to step down from being Arch Enemy’s voice of anger. After 13 years of pure fucking metal, 6 studio albums and countless tours through five continents, I feel the need to enter a different phase in my life, be with my family and pursue other interests. I will however remain business manager for Arch Enemy, and I will continue to develop my artist management roster.

I am staying true to my heavy metal roots, just leaving the spotlight so to speak. I am passing the torch to the super talented Alissa White-Gluz, whom I’ve known as a dear friend and a superb vocalist for many years. I always thought she deserved a chance to shine – and now she’s getting it. Just like I got that chance back in 2001.

I want to thank all Arch Enemy fans, our labels Century Media (worldwide) and Trooper Entertainment (Japan), our dedicated road crew, and in particular Michael, Daniel and Sharlee for their love and support throughout all these years. It’s been one hell of a ride! We conquered every situation, made it through thick & thin together in the most exciting and rewarding time of my life. Thank you all for being there with me on stage, in front of the stage, and backstage. You have touched my heart, and I hope I was able to give something back to you. I am grateful for the wonderful memories – I will cherish them forever!

I am looking forward to the next decade of Arch Enemy madness! Right now I am listening through rough mixes of the new studio album and I am blown away! 2014 will see a renewed Arch Enemy at the top of their game. I am proud to be part of this Arch Enemy chapter, albeit in a different way – revving up the engines behind the scenes. I hope to see you in front of the stage, I will join you there this time. Let the killing begin, once again!

Once again, this is a farewell statement that doesn’t really explain all the reasons for the decision. Once again, I’m sort of dismayed, though not to the same extent as my Cobalt dismay. Angela was something of a lightning rod during her Arch Enemy tenure, with purists persistently proclaiming that her vocals really weren’t that great and that Arch Enemy went downhill after she replaced Johan Liva. But no one can deny that her presence at the front of the band paved the way for an explosion of their global popularity. I always thought she was cool, and she was a charismatic presence in the live AE shows I had the pleasure of seeing.

Of course, with Angela stepping down, AE could have had their pick of vocalists — they could have gone with some big hairy male growler with a deep underground pedigree (or a clean-cut Army vet named McSorley). But I guess they felt their best chance of hanging on to their big fan base was to stay with an attractive female presence behind the mic. Here’s the new promo pic:



This switch has obviously been in the works for a while, because yesterday The Agonist promptly announced the replacement for Alissa White-Gluz — and yes, they’re staying with an attractive female frontperson, too. Her name is Vicky Psarakis:


As we previously reported, Arch Enemy have recorded a new album, presumably with Angela Gossow providing all the vocals. The name is War Eternal and it’s set for release in June. Apparently a new track from the album will be released for listening later this week.

You got any thoughts about any of this?  If so, you know where to leave ’em.


  1. sorry to hear about your car and laptop troubles, that really sucks. i was upset over the weekend just because my laptop’s AC charger died on me, i would lose my mind if the whole thing disappeared on me 🙁
    i’m kind of excited about the Arch Enemy thing. i’m a big fan of White-Gluz and her work with The Agonist, so i think she could really do great things with Arch Enemy. i’m also curious to see what Psarakis will bring to The Agonist, i haven’t heard much of her.

  2. I am happy for Angela but deeply saddened at her departure. I also love Alissa but do not think she fits Arch Enemy. Angela and Alissa’s voice and lyricism were about 50% of what I liked most about each of their respective bands, them both departing does not sit well with me.

    Generally I just don’t think Alissa’s harsh vocals are anywhere up to par with Angela, and they are just a totally different style that doesnt mesh well with AE in my head. I will still give the album many listens just because Arch Enemy have earned that, but I remain highly cautious and quite pessimistic unfortunately.

    Here’s to hoping my pessimism is crushed.

    • I had hopes that the new Arch Enemy album might be something on par with their better albums (I’ve always been a fan of Angela’s vocals), now I’m as pessimistic as you are. Alissa’s growls lack the tonal variety I like in a melodic death metal vocalist and I’m not a fan of her clean singing. Would have much rather seen them get a strong vocalist than stay with a pretty girl.

      On the other hand, Vicky has an amazing voice. I’ll definitely have to give The Agonist a listen after the switch.

  3. I really like Cobalt and its just straight up terrible news to hear McSorley is leaving. Even if Erik continues on without him I doubt they’ll catch lighting in a bottle again

    That said, Im really surprised to hear anyone say that Cobalt was a highlight at last years MDF. Through no fault of their own, Deathfest had to use a tent as their indoor stage and holy shit was it awful. Constant equipment issues, the acoustics were garbage, and the sound guy running the board didnt seem to have a clue as to how to compensate.
    Cobalt played their best, but the vocals were completely washed out, the lead guitar was impossible to make out, and the low end ate up EVERYTHING. What you hear on that video is exactly what they sounded like live…just louder. No guitar..just bass and drums. I can count the number of bands in that tent who didnt sound like shit on one hand and have a couple fingers left over

    As for Arch Enemy…while I may not have ever thought Angela was all that great, she wasnt a terrible vocalist either…just not as great as people seemed to think she was. Im not sure if vocally, Alicia is a good replacement though. Shes got a nice singing voice, but she sounds like more of a “-core” screamer than an actual death metal vocalist

    • I do remember some of my friends commenting about the poor sound of that Cobalt set, but they were close to the front, and I think the vehemence and passion of McSorley’s performance was what stuck out.

      • Id heard that there were areas where the tent didnt sound like complete shit, but they must have been few and far between.

        I think the only bands I really enjoyed in that tent were Cruciamentum, Antaeus, Aosoth, and Revenge. Some were better than others, but they seemed to range from okay to straight up butchered

        Hey speaking of shitty news…did you catch the message from Dark Descent about Anhedonist breaking up?

        • Fuck! No, I hadn’t heard!

          • Yeah, back on March 13 Dark Descent announced their breakup on facebook..Not a lot to it, just that theyve announced Anhedonist is disbanding and that the split album with Lantern is going to be a Lantern 7″

            • I have mutual friends with people in the band and know one of them myself (who is also in Old Skin), though I haven’t run into him since last fall. Surprised I hadn’t heard about this. Shitty news.

    • There are some points with The Agonist where Alissa would use more deep, death metal-type growls, so I think she’s capable. I was never a big fan of Gossow or Arch Enemy anyway, so if there’s some type of departure with their sound it’s a positive imo. I’m more concerned with what effect it has on The Agonist since I haven’t heard the new singer before.

        • Pretty impressive I’d say. Apparently she had other videos where she used harsh vocals but they’re not currently available. Too bad. The other thing to wait for will be the songs themselves, since in Alissa’s statement she made it sound like she had a hand in more than just writing lyrics.

      • They dont really play a style I enjoy, so I cant say Im an expert on The Agonist. I have given them a try on more than a few occasions though, and the only time Ive ever heard Alicia do deeper growls she sounded like she was layered as hell…not to mention it didnt seem like she maintained that level of power in her voice for very long before returning to a “-core” scream/yell. Id be surprised if she could do it for a whole song, let alone the 8 or 9 required for a whole album

        Honestly though, this dosnt impact me one way or the other…Ive never really cared for either band. I doubt the changing singers is going to make me reconsider my opinion

        • Yeah, I wouldn’t have pegged you as much of a melodeath/metalcore fan haha. It’s not really my thing either, but I think they’re one of the few bands that does it well. I would also say she stuck to more of a mid-range growl than a -core scream, but those are in there too.

          Anyway, that versatility was probably her biggest strength more than being great at any one style. I don’t see the reasoning in hiring her and then making her stick to one vocal type, except that she’s another attractive frontwoman.

          • I know Im the grumpy kvrmvdgeon on the board, (a label Ive more than earned :)) but you may surprised how much Melodeath I like. I dont dismiss it out of hand, but just like Power metal Im extremely picky about it.

            I guess what you call a mid-range growl is probably what Im talking about..Whatever you call that kind of screechy pseudo-growl that a lot of modern melodeath/metalcore singers use. I just cant stand that style of vocals…like nails on a chalkboard for me.

            I do think she has a really solid singing voice though, and honestly, I wouldnt be surprised if we saw some actual clean singing start to pop up on this album. Not a lot, but maybe peppered though the album a bit

  4. I freakin’ love Cobalt, and while I always knew this could happen, it’s still a bummer. I hope Phil continues to succeed. On the shiny side, if Erik decides to keep Cobalt alive, we can be certain that he will keep it awesome.

    • I wish I knew how far they got with the new album before Phil made this decision — and I also hope that Erik will bring it to fruition. I haven’t yet seen any public comment by him about what will happen next.

      • You can’t help but fear that, rather than burning out at the completion of an album or breaking up right after it releases (see Altar of Plagues), the progress of the album itself was the breaking point and nothing from it will see the light of day.

        • Yes, that’s a worrisome possibility. But if there were “creative differences”, that doesn’t necessarily mean Erik won’t finish it in a way that fits his vision.

  5. Damn. It looks like we’ve got ourselves a shite sandwich of news. At least I’m listening to an awesome new Agalloch song right now.

  6. Phil has a new project called Recluse. It’s evil, dense and unpleasant black metal, but it doesn’t sound like Cobalt:

    He’s doing guitar, drums and vocals, and Mike Meacham of Loss is on bass.

  7. Based on statements from all three parties (Angela, AE, and Alissa) it looks like this War Eternal album was recorded with Alissa and not Angela. Which would explain some of the early pressers from Michael stating that AEs music on the new album was going to be visiting new territory.

    Personally I think they should have hired Britta from Cripper instead. That lady can roar with the best of them. This Alissa chick has always struck me as someone that was more suited for a gothic symphonic bands than anything death metal related. Her harsh vocal are grating and this is coming from someone that thought Angelas harsh vocals were a bit weak. I’ll give the new one a listen but my expectations of my enjoyment will be low,sadly.

    • I agree with most of what you said except that Im glad that Britta probably wasnt even on their radar. Id much rather she stay with Cripper and make awesome music, than end up on a band that hasnt had a decent album in over 10 years.

      Honestly, if they wanted to keep a similar vocalist they should have recruited Marloes Voskuil of Izegrim or Kitty Saric Decadence/Triton Enigma

    • Damn, I’ve obviously not been paying close enough attention to the news. Did not realize that Alissa’s voice would be on the new album. Should be interesting… but I’m afraid I’m like you (more worried than thrilled).

    • Personally I think they should have hired me. I was willing.

      I also don’t think Alissa’s all that great as a harsh vocalist. She’s capable, but a bit “stock” (to borrow a term from Lars Ulrich). To be honest there’s an odd tendency to view female harsh vocalists through rose-tinted “oh, that’s so good… for a girl” glasses. Which is unfortunate because regardless of gender a good death vocalist is a good death vocalist!

      I actually thought Angela was great, particularly live. Not sure if they ever fully captured her live energy on record.

      The one positive I can possibly think of though is that Alissa’s lyrics might break new ground away from the “one for all/we are one/stand up/be strong/etc, etc” stuff that AE keep rehashing.

  8. Go go Arch Enemy i thing a new vocalist allisa white was not so bad . For me she awesome.

  9. Happy new year to AE and also to every band out there.

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