BLACK COBRA - "Inject The Venom"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Power trios have been a constant in heavy music since the days of Cream, With the onset of sophisticated home recording technology, we've seen a flood of one man bands in the metal world. But it is still rare to see a two-man outfit in operation...and rarer still to see one that hits with the bone-rattling force of Black Cobra.

Black Cobra is guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian (ex-Cavity) and drummer Rafael Martinez (ex-Acid King) and these dudes whip up one hell of a raw, sludgy, aggressive noise between the two of fact, it puts a lot of four and five man metal bands to shame. Nowhere is this more evident than the latest Black Cobra splatter platter, "Invernal", which is boiling over with anger and darkness.

"Invernal" is the chronicle of a future Antarctica warped by radiation and global warming, menaced by bands of mutant cannibals and stalked by unearthly beasts. And no, I don't mean GWAR... In short, this is Black Cobra's most concise and devastating offering yet and it offers me the perfect chance to venture forth into the Snake Pit to speak to Mr. Landrian about the two-man death squad. Result of said interrogation is now presented unto you humanoids...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: You guys are real road dogs! Do you remember what home actually is? Is it the touring that actually "drives" the band?

JASON LANDRIAN: Home is San Francisco, so being home is actually pretty great and I definitely don’t forget about it. Before this last tour we were actually home for about a year which is the longest we’ve stayed off the road since "Bestial"  came out (2006). Touring isn’t necessarily what drives the band, but it’s the best way that we feel we can present the music. Recordings are great, but we love playing live, and feel that that’s the way to really experience the music.

WC:  Do you feel more creative energy to write when you're home or when you're on the road?

JL: We get ideas while we’re on the road, but there are so many distractions out there that it’s easy to lose focus. I feel more compelled to write when at home.

WC: "Invernal" has a very aggressive and fast sound, more so than past Black Cobra efforts. Where's that anger coming from?

JL: We’ve always been attracted to a heavy and aggressive sound. Although there is definitely some general anger at the overall state of the human race, I think that we view the music as more of a force of nature like a hurricane or an earthquake. 

WC: I understand the album is about a future Antarctica mutated by global warming. What was it that inspired you to write about this concept?

JL: I read the book "Endurance"  on our last tour. It’s the story of Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to traverse Antarctica in 1914. It’s a fascinating story of human survival. That was sort of the catalyst that got us in the mindset of Antarctica. We’ve always been big fans of John Carpenter’s The Thing and H.P. Lovecraft in general, so we took inspiration from those things as well. We kind of took off on our own after that. We injected our own ideas into the Antarctic landscape and the songs just started forming.

WC: Is this weird landscape a place you are going to play around with some more on future releases or is this a one-time visit?

JL: We’ll have to wait and see.

WC: The world seems to be in the beginning stages of a real apocalypse. Do you feel that you are musical heralds of that apocalypse?

JL:Plenty of folks have been saying the world is going to end for a long time, so I guess it’s nothing new. Maybe we’re just the loudest of them. 

WC: You got a really nice write up recently in the New York Times. What kind of impact has that had on the band? Is it something you really take notice of?

JL: We haven’t really seen any impact directly from the article yet. It was great to be featured though. We definitely noticed it, but we also have to keep moving forward. It’s kind of like, “Cool! OK, now what’s next?”

WC: You guys have been playing underground music for a long time. How does the current scene compare with what was going on in the 90's?

JL: Overall, it just seems like there are more bands out there now. More bands seem to be going on tour and releasing records. There were always bands around, but with the way the internet has gone, it’s made it easier for people to get in touch with each other and easier for people to put their music out there to be heard. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

WC:  The song "The Crimson Blade" has more of an epic, classic metal feel to it. What's this song about, where did it come from?

JL: “The Crimson Blade” is about a tribe of people who have become mutant cannibals after a nuclear apocalypse has turned the world into an icy landscape. Now they are nomads and just destroy everything in their path. It’s a blend of our love of sci-fi and horror with the brutal Antarctic environment. It’s also about the primitive side of humanity, and despite how far we’ve come with technology, at our core we’re still just animals.

WC:  You guys are headed to Roadburn next year. How psyched are you for this and who do you look forward to seeing/interacting with?

JL: We’re really excited about Roadburn! I’m most excited to see Voivod and The Obsessed, but there are so many great bands listed, it’s hard to name just one.

WC:  What are the advantages and pitfalls of being in a two-man group?

JL: In a way there really aren’t any. It forces us to be more creative since we want to be able to replicate our albums live. If we do any overdubs or anything, we need to be able to do it live, so we have to figure out how. It’s kind of a good thing. Overall, we just feel like a normal band, just with less people.

WC:  When playing live, do you use session players, backing tracks or none of the above?

JL: I use samples, but I hesitate to call them backing tracks. It’s not like we have backing vocals or a horn section or anything like that. There are a couple of rhythm guitar samples that I have stored for when I do solos, and there are some that I sample and loop live before soloing over them. We don’t use any session players. It’s just us two.

WC:  What have been the high and low points of Black Cobra's career so far?

JL: The NY Times thing was actually pretty cool. Being on the Adult Swim compilation Metal Swim, opening for Kyuss and Sleep, playing Hellfest…those were all highlights. Low points are just shitty drives, not getting enough sleep…there was one time we were coming home from Europe and the flight had to make an emergency landing in Ireland. Before it landed though the pilot told us to review the safety cards in the event that we would have to make a “water landing.” That could be considered a low point, I suppose although it turned out OK.

WC:  What are the live plans for 2012 so far?

JL: So far, just Roadburn, but we’re planning things. Always planning…

WC: . If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?

JL: Cliff Burton, Ernest Shackleton, Lucio Fulci.

WC: What was the last CD/album you picked up just because you wanted to check it out yourself?

JL: Cluster – Grosses Wasser

WC: What was the last gig you caught just because you wanted to see the band?

JL: Inquisition with Vastum

WC:  In the history of Black Cobra, is there any "Spinal Tap" moment where things went haywire that you'd like to share with us?

JL: That flight situation I mentioned earlier is close. I’m pretty sure a couple people threw up in the barf bags the airlines provide. Luckily we haven’t had too many.

WC: Any last words or messages for the faithful?

JL: We’re going to be really busy in 2012, so stay tuned and thanks for your support!