Daniel Cece

Hot Off the Press: Job For a Cowboy - "Moon Healer"

Music Scene Media
Feb 25, 2024
5 min read
Album Art via Amazon

Anyone who has listened to even one track off of Job For a Cowboy's newest record can see how they have strayed even further from the now-antiquated traditional Deathcore sound that shaped their inception. While much of their original discography still occupies a special place in our hearts (The scream in "Entombment of a Machine" was practically the first viral heavy metal meme), their latest work is what has truly blazed a trail forward for both the band and the genre sonically, conceptually, and compositionally. Moon Healer prides itself on being a peak maturation point in their progression as artists, serving as both the culmination of the members' writing skills and their multifaceted storytelling abilities. As such, the record is a slow burn that asks listeners to set aside any and all expectations they may have brought, save for clearly setting the stage as a sequential next-of-kin to their widely acclaimed and seemingly divisive previous record, Sun Eater, a record that wholly distanced the band from its past life with razor-sharp intent. After a decade-long incubation, Moon Healer takes another mighty leap forward in an exploratory renaissance that brandishes intriguing soundscapes coupled with deep, perceptive insight.

Moon Healer is one of those albums that I find difficult to listen to casually or without active investment; records of this caliber often share similar underlying characteristics that set them apart due to their very nature, not resulting from any particular level of complexity, indigestibility, or the like, but rather because of the way they are intended to be consumed. There are plenty of modest, melodic grooves and dialed-back, graspable sections that listeners can surely enjoy in any context. However, Moon Healer is deserving of one's undivided attention and best absorbed with the mindset of following Job For a Cowboy down a psychedelic rabbit hole, prepared for the many writhing contortions the journey takes. Despite this, Moon Healer is a very forgiving album in the way that it presents each musical concept, with no one phrase or development being overly complex or indecipherable, even to the untrained ear. This is one of the key aspects of this album that I noticed even upon my first listen, and it is one of the things that I appreciate most about it.

Moon Healer is, by far, Job For a Cowboy's most Progressive effort yet, serving as an exemplary model for several elite musical fundamentals and songwriting archetypes even beyond its conceptual counterpart from ten years ago. However, they didn't flex their artisanal skills and seasoned expertise in a flashy or pretentious way, oftentimes opting for a "less is more" approach instead of overwhelming listeners with complex notes and rhythms. This isn't to say that there is any shortage of intricate, technical material scattered throughout Moon Healer, but rather that it is done so in a way that allows the album to breathe from beginning to end. Every song has a respectable tendency to apply the more involuted elements purposefully and justifiably, with ample reset time in between, so as to not overwhelm the listener who has been chosen to partake in the mind-bending, psychoactive saga that the album is based around (more on that in a bit).

The wax and wane of Moon Healer never ventures above or below a certain intensity, keeping the listener within boundaries that are drawn such that one can comfortably lose oneself in the overall progression without being pushed to any extremity. At times, this can come off as limiting, confining, or even seeming safe, especially in relation to much of their past material. There is a fine line between finding creative ways to concisely express an immersive, detailed compositional structure and unintentionally leaving more to be desired due to simply not filling each section out enough. I would argue that there are times throughout Moon Healer, albeit few and far between, where Job For a Cowboy tows this line – a few strokes shy of a masterpiece. While I have seen very little critique of this album from its enjoyers (much of it coming from those who simply do not care for the general songwriting style), I would say that this is Moon Healer's primary flaw. That being said, there is practically zero filler material aside from these rare sections where there is perhaps one dimension missing, a proverbial blind spot during the creation process – as for which, I will leave that to the listener.

The journey of Moon Healer as a standalone story (and in relation to Sun Eater), according to vocalist Jonny Davy, adds yet another layer of depth and significance to the compelling title and otherworldly album artwork, as described in an interview with Brooklyn Vegan explaining the conceptualization for the LP. "The concepts in the album follow someone attempting to explore a different human existence...", Davy explains, "...But contrary to what others viewed as their descent into delusion, they were under the belief that they were unlocking the gateway to some form of profound enlightenment.” Personally, my favorite albums are ones that encapsulate an experience or narrative that enhances and supplements the music itself. He continues to extrapolate on other core components that helped shape this character's psychosomatic odyssey, referencing their "focus on the pineal gland" (often associated with the 'third eye') as well as how they "obsessed over esoteric methods to access altered states of consciousness". The enigmatic backstory behind Moon Healer directly compliments the consistent, mysterious, and trippy timbre throughout the album. Many sections contain note choices that portray visuals that are apt for Davy's allegory, the instrumentation shaping dimensions that might resemble one's cascading into a hallucinogenic psychosis.

I would implore those who are fans of Job For a Cowboy's work, regardless of their preferred era along the group's timeline, to enter into this new domain with an open mind and a clean palate. It wasn't until I digested the full album from front to back that the singles they released were given the proper environment and context needed to be decoded in the way they were meant to be (I am beginning to detest the usage of single song releases for this very reason). Moon Healer might as well be one 39-minute-long continuous piece, broken by nothing other than track titles. One listen is simply not enough to decode the full message that these artists spent many years constructing. Part of what sets this album apart is the timeline itself, in fact. Vocalist Jonny Davy touched on this in the aforementioned interview by saying, "…As most bands have at one point or another found themselves in the situation of having to meet strict deadlines, this was not the case for Moon Healer...This slow pace gave us significantly more time to analyze and dissect what we were doing, which in turn helped make a better album.” Regardless of subjective opinions, it's clear that Job For a Cowboy never ceases to reinvent their sound, and Moon Healer is no exception to their long-standing commitment to creating fresh, authentic art.

FFO: Obscura, Virvum, Irreversible Mechanism, Entheos, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Faceless

Overall Rating: 9/10

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