Band: Cortana

Location: King Of Prussia, PA.
Genre: Hardcore, Progressive, Metalcore
Album: Letting Go
FFO: Periphery, Attilla, After The Burial, Deftones, Dillinger Escape Plan

Recommended tracks: “Emerald City”, “Lights Out Charlie”, “Jennifer’s Body”

Hey everyone, Jake Bender here!

It seems like February is the month for metal, as prolific Sumerian Records bands After The Burial and Fallujah have just released new albums, as well as local Pennsylvania band Cortana. The band consists of guitarists Nick Malfara and Robbie Ellinger, Drummer Corey Ostroski, and Vocalist Michael “Mike” Santucci.

I’ve been following this band for about a year now and have been super stoked on this debut album ever since it was teased quite a few months ago. Originally known as Hope For Hayden, a Pop Punk band, the group changed it’s name after multiple lineup changes, and finally settled when vocalist Michael Santucci asked the group “why not Cortana?” Cortana claims they are a Progressive Hardcore band, and with influences like Periphery, ABR, and Protest The Hero, you can definitely assume the type of sound these guys are going for; well produced guitar and drums with a heavy focus on clear low end and clear sounding vocals.

As an overall review of the album from a production standpoint everything is what you would expect of your typical Sumerian or Fearless band, more specifically Sumerian. The low end guitar chugs are very clear, as well as the high and middle notes on this record. Everything from breakdowns to solos are clean and present, and sound intense. The riffage on this album is beyond insane.

The vocals are surprisingly clean on the album for an independent metalcore band. And no, I do not mean clean as in non screaming vocals (however there are those on here and they sound sick). You can hear every shred and scratch in Michael’s voice, which add more to the intensity and rawness of the album, especially on “Lights Out Charlie”. The cleans on this album are quite slick sounding as well, especially present on the beginning of “Emerald City” and “Lights Out Charlie”.

The drums on this album could have had a bit more work done on them, which I find with most metalcore albums. At some points, they sound intense, amplifying the bass and guitar on major breakdowns, but other times they fall flat and sound somewhat synthetic. I don’t blame this on the drummer, as Corey is an extremely talented musician who knows what he’s doing behind the kit, as is evident on songs such as “Dunkin’ Gonuts” and “Seducing Medusa”. The producer could have taken a bit more time to work a bit longer on the percussion.

So now that we’ve taken a general analysis of the album, let’s take a look at the separate tracks of the album. Some songs will be brie descriptions, others will be full on analysis because details I talk about will most likely be carried over.

  1. “Blue Is the Warmest Color”
Probably the most mellow track on the entire album. The track is an instrumental that features heavy delay on both the bass and guitar, creating an almost eerie and ghostly atmosphere before the consistent onslaught of aggression to come next. Think, beginning of “Ghostship Part 1”, a calm before the heavy and destructive storm ahead.

2. “Emerald City”
My favorite track on the album period. The track starts with a very old school Post-hardcore kick drum intro, which rushes right into the first actual riff of the album, a very fast paced low string guitar run. Michael comes right in with the screaming, and switches to a downtempo breakdown-y pre chorus. This leads into a chorus some of the best singing the vocalist does on the album, almost Kurt Travis-esque. This leads into breakdown a soundclip of Mrs. Star saying “Marty I’m Scared.” The minor scale synth guitar solo adds to the spookiness of the overall sound, and eventually gets back into a groovy and second verse. The next chorus features a solo, and both guitarists have killer tone for an independent release.

I’ll let you find out what happens after the last clean vocal line ;).

3. “Lights Out Charlie”
Heavy breakdown intro with a consistent and strong rhythm, that switches to an uptempo chorus and keeps up with the intensity. Probably would be the second single for the album. Also we have super fun metalcore glitch guitars, so that’s a plus.

4. “Dunkin’ Gonuts”
Probably one of the heaviest songs on the entire album, complete with china cymbal hit intro. Most mathy song as well, seeing as the riff itself has a very After The Burial/Meshuggah-y type djenty riff that carries it throughout the verses. Switches to another old-school posthardcore-esque chorus. There’s intersting synth stuff going on in this track, that leads into a fun little breakdown. The most interesting vocal effects on this track are the whispers you hear over a low as hell chromatic riff, probably the closest thing to deathcore on the album, that leads right back into another fun chorus.

5. “Seducing Medusa”
The most “Sumerian” song on the entire album. Starts with a very Northlane intro, and focuses on just fast and heavy approach, going all out with very old-school hardcore chorus you can just stomp around to in the pit. Complete with an obligitory “Fuck” before the breakdown. Features guest vocals from Zachary Wilson

6. “Scene Kids Can’t Swim”
Need I say more about this? Great title and good slams, my friend.

7. “Monologue”
Just an intro for the final track of the album. Features an ominous organ and sets the tone for the band’s oldest and heaviest song they’ve written.

8. “Jennifer’s Body”
And for the last song on the album we have a song about a shitty relationship. But when you look at how the song is written, it’s quite clever, making the character it’s written about to be based off of a movie about a succubus who drains your life. “Jennifer’s Body” was the first song I ever heard from Cortana, and I’m glad it made it onto the album! As if the intro before hand didn’t add enough atmosphere, the tension rises as the first guitar riff hits, and the syncopated drum line just adds onto the pressure the band is trying to convey. The song is a slow jam, and is abruptly different from most of the tracks on this album. It takes its time into getting it’s point across. “Jennifer’s Body” would also probably be the single for the album.

 

Cortana, you guys have an awesome start with this album, and I can’t wait to hear another release! In my opinion, I felt it was too short, as “Jennifer’s Body” leaves you wanting more and more after the track finishes. I would love to hear more from you guys, and I don’t think I’ll be letting go of this album for a while!

I give it 4.5 krusty krab pizzas, out of 5.

Check out the videos for “Emerald City” and “Jennifer’s Body” below and buy the album on Bandcamp by clicking HERE!