Virginia-based rockers Corsair initially seemed like the type of group whose every idea represented something I dislike. They are typically described as heavy metal, their name is boring (although, to be fair, so are the names of the majority of bands I like), the cover of their self-titled album appears to be a failed attempt at epic imagery (which, in heavy metal, is often used to compensate for a lack of imagery and epic qualities in the songs), and they open the album with an instrumental called “Agathyrsi” that nears six minutes in length. Everything was in order for me to hate this band.
Still, as the almost-six-minute instrumental opener began, it didn’t take long for Corsair to reveal themselves as subtle, talented and tuneful musicians. But usually, as soon as a heavy metal song with vocals came along, I would start to hate them.
Not this time. The second track, “Chaemera,” features vocals from bassist Jordan Brunk and, as far as heavy metal vocalists go, he’s ideal. Two songs later, “Gryphon Wing” (sung by guitarist Paul Sebring) topped “Agathyrsi” musically and “Chaemera” vocally to become one of the most perfect heavy metal songs 2013 will have to offer. By the time “Corsair” came to its close, it was obvious that this was an impressively powerful album for the genre.
With each listen, new things in “Corsair” make themselves apparent. The guitar solos get stronger every time I hear them, the riffs get crunchier and the melodies get catchier. The bad moments also become harder to look past.
“Falconer” and “Of Kings and Cowards” are minor moments of average filler that inch awfully close to boring filler.
But the album’s biggest flaw is track five, “Path of the Chosen Arrow.” The one punk-sounding cut on a very un-punk album, the problems with the song are made noticeable mainly because of how inappropriate it feels here, sounding almost like somebody placed a Menzingers song in the middle by mistake. The last half of the track goes back into metal territory, but it still feels incredibly out of place (even if it were on a punk album, it would still be a pretty lame song).
The album ends with “The Desert,” the one song where guitarist (and sole female member) Marie Landragin gives a vocal performance. It opens slowly and then gets more intense as it goes on, finishing with an epic two-minute instrumental closing.
Landragin’s singing voice is exquisite, and it’s disappointing that
it wasn’t utilized more. It actually makes me excited to see if she’s given more chances to show off her voice on their sophomore release (the fact that I’m actually excited about a metal band’s future material is saying something).
“Corsair” isn’t a perfect record, but for heavy metal, it’s about as perfect as they come. This is a fascinating band. They rock, but it’s clear that’s not their only agenda, which makes their biggest moments feel less cheap than your average head-banging anthem. They are musically confident enough to tone it down on occasion, but also know when to speed it up.
According to their Facebook page, one of Corsair’s main influences is King Crimson. Still, this progressive metal influence doesn’t convince me that they’re progressing any more than all of the reviews that use that word to describe them. Another one of their main influences: Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson wishes he had an album this good in him.
Grade: B PLUS
Key tracks: “Gryphon Wing,” “The Desert” and “Chaemera.”