Cobweb Strange - "The Temptation Of Successive Hours" (self-released 1996, CPR-1001)
Cobweb Strange - "Sounds From The Gathering" (Genterine Records 1998, CPR-1002)
Cobweb Strange - "A Breath Of October" (Genterine Records 2002, CPR-1003)
Cobweb Strange - "Seamless Selections" (Genterine Records 2002, CPR-1004)
From Aural Innovations #23 (April 2003)
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Cobweb Strange was formed in 1995 by bassist and lead vocalist Wade Summerlin and drummer Derik Rinehart. After auditioning over 100 guitarists the pair finally settled on Jonathan Burke and this is the trio that recorded their 1996 debut CD The Temptation Of Successive Hours. Burke is an absolutely ripping rock guitarist who is responsible for most of the excitement on this CD and it's a shame this was the only album he played on.
The set opens with "Clarity's Advent" which starts off as a decent rock tune with a good blend of heavy and melodic elements, and there's enough shifts in pace and style to put Cobweb Strange in the prog rock realm. But it's not until the last minute or so that the song kicks into high instrumental gear as Burke cranks out some excellent but rock guitar against Summerlin and Rinehart's driving rhythm section. "The Sand Reckoner" begins pretty much the same, but the band wastes less time before launching into full heavy rock assault mode. Throughout the set it seems to be a trademark part of the bands style that they mix somewhat plain songs with really kick ass heavy rock. For example, "Solver" is a straightforward rock tune except for the gorgeously ripping heavy psych-rock guitar. And I dig the metallic edge to "Edicius" and "Self-Indulgence". Only a few songs didn't trip my trigger at all. "Gentle Darkness" and "Away From Truth" are darkly atmospheric melodic songs with nice music and tasteful playing, but are ultimately unexciting. And "Astral Projection" is the longest track at 7 minutes, though it really doesn't develop as fully as this trio clearly could have. The real strength of this debut version of Cobweb Strange lies in its ability to crank out solid heavy rock with prog rock structures and bits of psych-rock guitar.
By the time of the second Cobweb Strange CD, 1998's Sounds From The Gathering, Derik Rinehart's brother Keith had replaced Jonathan Burke on guitar. The music is characterized by dark rock music with a Gothic edge and a low droning feel. Unfortunately they are compositionally inferior to the more varied and interesting songs on the first CD, and Keith Rinehart, though a capable musician, just doesn't have the fire and ripping guitar sound that Jonathan Burke had. The result is an album that just kind of plods along seemingly without ambition or direction. There are, however, a couple of exceptions. "Taste Of Ash" is a short quirky rocker that reminded me of an old Police song. And "...As The Sky Crumbles" is a high powered and very good rocker. What's interesting is that these stronger tracks lack any of the bands more intricate progressive rock tendencies.
It took a few years but when Cobweb Strange returned in 2002 with A Breath Of October, the band had grown to a quartet and Wade Summerlin was the only surviving original member. Joining Summerlin, and part of the current lineup, is Holly Williams on guitar, Brandi Byrum on keyboards and backing vocals, and Soumen Talukder on drums. From the opening track, "The Drowning Pulse Of The Cold Green Sea", we hear that instead of returning to the powerful rock of their debut, this version of Cobweb Strange takes the style that was lacking direction on Sounds From The Gathering and gives shape, character and passion to it. The song drifts along for several minutes creating a moody atmosphere until launching into a powerful instrumental segment that is more overtly influenced by progressive rock than anything I've heard on the previous releases. Certainly Byrum's keyboards are a contributing factor. But the compositions are stronger and really held my attention, and superior production adds punch and clarity to the instruments. In fact, I'm reminded somewhat of their fellow Atlantans Timothy Pure. The 12 minute "Pure" is another track for the prog rock crowd and includes some of the bands more intricate instrumentals. No mind blowing leads or flashy playing... this is a collaborative effort. Williams' guitar rarely takes front and center stage, instead doing her part to color and shape the music in cooperation with her bandmates. I dig the slow paced but highly intense metallic bit at the end.
Among the remaining tracks is "Giant", a re-recording of one of the less interesting songs from their debut CD. This version is very similar but has a jazzier feel. "The Empty Shell" is a passionate folk styled song performed by just Summerlin and his acoustic guitar. "Tea For The Sleepless" features spacey atmospherics and dark haunting vocals, all propelled by the steady fluid rhythm section. This is a perfect example of the type of simplicity that would have just felt meandering on Sounds From The Gathering but with the current lineup creates a hypnotic head journey. "Currents Of Nightshade" is similar but with a darker Gothic feel. The band did a video for this song that reflects the Gothic nature of the music. Finally, "On With The Show" is a potent rock tune mixed with drifting psychedelic tinged acoustic prog, and is Holly Williams' one opportunity to really show her chops. An excellent track.
In summary, between the first and third CD's we have a band that is in some ways very similar, but for the most part very different. You could start with the first or the most recent CD's based on which descriptions spark your interest. Alternatively, the Cobweb Strange catalog also includes Seamless Selections, a compilation that consists of three songs from each of their three CD's. Probably the best starting point as it's an excellent opportunity to get a feel for what the band was and is about.
For more information you can visit the Cobweb Strange web site at:
Contact via snail mail c/o Cobweb Strange; PO Box 191035; Atlanta, GA 31119.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz