Somewhere between death metal’s obsessive technicality and sweeping thematic scope lies Cognitive. The New Jersey quintet’s music is a roiling sea of vengeful riffs and throttling drums that leaves no one second-guessing their abilities as musicians. But it’s the atmosphere that lurks at the heart of the band’s songs — the impressive sense of menace, sadness, and believable contempt throughout — that set them Cognitive apart from the unlistenable pack. Death metal bands with complex songs are a dime a dozen, but these dudes want to make the listener feel something, and they succeed with flying colors.
While Cognitive seeded this approach throughout 2016’s Deformity and 2018’s Matricide, the band’s latest album, Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction, takes it on with every track. From beginning to end, the record blasts the listener with hostile death metal that never becomes so overloaded as to be noise. The use of catchy rhythms, beautifully driving riffs and empty spaces pull the band out of the scene’s roiling mire and raise them up as one of death metal’s more interesting modern voices.
Before cranking our exclusive advance stream of the album, we reached out to guitarist Rob Wharton about what makes Cognitive tick, churn, and crush:
Did you go into Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction with anything you specifically wanted or didn’t want to do?
We always go into writing a record with no rules, but I feel with this record we wanted everything to be more cohesive and less of a riff salad. We wanted the songwriting to really take the reins on this record more than flashy riffs all the time. We repeated parts more than we have on any of our previous records, and I personally think we incorporated more vocal hooks and head-bob riffs than before. I’m really excited for this release, but also excited to see where we go next musically.
How much of this album was created during the pandemic?
We had three songs done before the pandemic hit and then the rest was written completely remotely. We had no practices together and we didn’t seeing each other until going into the studio, so that was definitely stressful and different. It was also a blessing in disguise, because while we couldn’t tour, we were able to really focus on this record with a fine-tooth comb. We scrapped three songs which didn’t make the album and really dug our heels in on making this the best record we could, which we think we accomplished without delaying the record at all. Overall, we’re really pleased with how it came out.
Matricide definitely played with atmosphere quite a bit, especially towards the end — have you continued that with Malevolent…?
I think so — there are some more layers and ambience and drone parts on this record than anything previously for sure. We’re hoping to do even more of that on the next record. Rivers of Nihil and Fallujah are two huge influences to us, and taking that ambient soundscape and making it work within Cognitive’s style of music is definitely something that’s fun to do, but we try to do it right as we don’t have a ton of super melodic stuff all the time. We’ll do it when it feels called for and natural, but we like things to feel right and to still sound like us.
With live music finally on the horizon, what’s a song from this album that you’re dying to bust out for a crowd?
“Arterial Red” or “To Feed the Worms.” Both have such heavy slams in them — we absolutely cannot wait to play live again! We’re so excited! Another one would be “Destitute,” just to see if the chorus catches on with the crowd for them to sing along, and also it’s a nice way to break up the set I’d like to think. Man, just thinking about playing live again sounds so awesome, we miss it so much. It looks like fall is when we hope to be playing again, which will be here sooner than later!
Listen to our exclusive advance stream of Cognitive’s Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction below:
Cognitive’s Malevolent Thoughts of a Hastened Extinction drops this Friday, July 16th, via Unique Leader Records, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin