There are few albums within this decade I remember being as fundamentally surprising as Job For A Cowboy‘s 2014 opus Sun Eater. Even though I enjoyed the two albums they released prior to it, I was simply not expecting an album of this magnitude of excellence when I sat down to listen to Sun Eater for the first time. It went so far above and beyond what JFAC delivered in the past that it was hard to not sit in incredulous awe as it unfurled before me.
I know for a fact that many among my friends and colleagues in the EIN camp share this initial reaction and the long-lasting adoration it triggered; in the following, our staff writers Rodney, Billie, and Eeli will share their personal thoughts on this monument of modern prog-death. Please enjoy!
Sun Eater is the very definition of bittersweet for me. On one hand, it demonstrates a band peaking in their prime and laying waste to all competition, but on the other, the band went silent right after its release and has remained in a dormant state since. I recall them wanting to give people time to learn all the songs in and out before they’d commence touring and performing said album worldwide. It’s been exactly five years now, and pretty much nothing has happened since. For a long time it has felt like Job For A Cowboy ran out of cattle to pasture, but this year’s been replenished with some peculiar rumours and teasing, so who knows.
Personally, I have a deep connection with Sun Eater. It was my introduction to the band whose whole career has been shaded by the deathcore tones of their first EP. I shun that particular genre completely, and think I wouldn’t have given them a chance in the first place if I only knew about the dominant climate regarding the band’s style. I was in my late teens and had just recently moved to my own place, trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do with my life when Sun Eater came along. I’m not pretending that the album would’ve dragged me into the light or given me any answers regarding anything, but it sure as shit struck me really profoundly.
The perfectly balanced mixture of punishing tech-death and floaty atmosphere was something I had never heard before, and acted as a gateway of sorts, hence having a significant meaning in morphing my musical taste. There’s something extraordinary in the hauntingly dire mood, let alone in the individual instrument performances. I could just drown myself into the massive grooves and ominous atmospheres of tracks like “Sun of Nihility”, “Encircled by Mirrors”, and “Worming Nightfall” for weeks to come without getting bored at the slightest, which goes to show how well Sun Eater endures time and its tiring weight. It holds up and reigns its own territory, matched very rarely and only by few.
In 2007 when 13 year-old me was first discovering metal and was jamming Doom, I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me Job For A Cowboy would release arguably the best progressive death metal album of the decade in just a few short years. Even when Genesis and Ruination were in my regular rotation through high school, I would have told you they were an awesome band, but surely your aspirations were out of proportion.
In 2014 when Sun Eater was unleashed into the world, I was completely blown away. I hadn’t heard much of anything like it, and five years later I still chase the feeling I got upon my first listen. Every second of this album is providing more reason to fall in love, from some of the most cohesive and interestingly written riffs I’ve ever heard, to an absolutely infectious tone and untouchable production value. Add in the vocals of Jonny Davy being some of the most unique I’ve ever heard, especially on Sun Eater, and you have a juggernaut of an album.
JFAC take you to Riff City on a fully guided tour, and make a lot of their competition in the scene look lackluster in the process. Sun Eater is absolutely chock full of original riffs and some of the best solos I’ve ever heard between “Sun of Nihility”, “Encircled by Mirrors”, and “Buried Monuments”. It’s an almost unbelievable landmark for a band that started off rooted in the deathcore scene, but their slowly shifting sound for the decade before Sun Eater was indicative they were hungry for more. It’s been five years now, and there isn’t a day where I hope for some kind of announcement from this band.
Oh yeah, did I mention Sun Eater has the best bass tone in any metal album ever? Because it totally does.
When you look at the artwork of all Job For A Cowboy releases, it becomes obvious that Sun Eater is the one album that really stands out. Besides the excellent cover art, one of the reasons for this is the maturity of the songwriting, in combination with its great production. Also, that fucking bass tone! Honestly, when thinking of Sun Eater, it’s this bass tone that instantly comes to my mind. The lick in the very beginning of “Sun Of Nihility” is what fascinated me most about it during the very first spins of this record. It’s just so crisp and well-articulated, as it plays almost the exact same riffs as the guitars.
“The Celestial Antidote” holds a very special place for me when it comes to its uncompromising heaviness. The dark and gritty opening suddenly gets interrupted by a driving drum beat and very melodic riffing. Together with the blackened feeling, dissonant guitar riffs, and punishing blast beats, the vocals truly create an apocalyptic setting. There’s a lot of melody going on in “Buried Monuments”, before “Worming Nightfall” rounds up the album with a doomy, majestic, and epic undertone, mostly due to its moderate tempo. All things considered, the album meanders from doomy death metal to progressive tech-death, never losing its harsh and direct musical language.
With the release of Sun Eater, Job For A Cowboy finally left all their deathcore roots behind, branching out into the greatest spheres of modern progressive death metal. Sun Eater really raised the standard of modern (death) metal, and still waits for its rightful successor. Only time will tell if there’ll be another JFAC album, but this latest release will have its well-deserved place in many music libraries for a very long time to come.
That’s all we’ve got for you today in this episode of A Scene In Retrospect; thanks for tuning in as we discussed this profoundly surprising and boundary-pushing album! What are your thoughts on/experiences with Sun Eater and Job For A Cowboy in general? Leave them in the comments if you feel like sharing! Also, don’t forget to come back two weeks from now for another belated look back at a beloved record!