Born of the Fireside Bowl hardcore scene, local trio Sweet Cobra have become synonymous with heavy music in Chicago over the past two decades—but they’ve also evolved every step of the way. They started off as a fairly typical early-aughts doomy hardcore act, and though they’ve shifted away from hardcore with proggy, sludgy, and melodic forays, they’ve consistently delivered tunes with their signature pummeling attack. On their brand-new fifth album, Threes, bassist and vocalist Tim Remis, guitarist Robert “Grumpy” Lanham, and drummer Jason Gagovski (who’s releasing the record on his Hawthorne Street label) have landed somewhere in the middle of their earlier work and at the same time far beyond anything they’ve created before. They’ve all but done away with straightforward melodic hardcore, and now they’re interpreting their usual heaviness through layers of lush tones and waves of warm guitar rather than a cacophonous wall of distortion. And when they add elements of dreamy shoegaze, sky-high space rock, earthy Americana, and blissed-out alternative rock, you could describe Threes as “post-everything.” My favorite thing about the record is also what surprised me the most—it’s incredibly catchy. Sweet Cobra will never be a pop band, but here they get pretty damn close. Twenty years into their career, they’re still reinventing themselves, and on Threes the payoff is the best yet.
Sweet Cobra’s Threes is available on Bandcamp.