“Moon Healer” – Job for a Cowboy Album Review

Written by on February 25, 2024

Job For A Cowboy has pushed boundaries with their last album Sun Eater, and Moon Healer not only feels like the natural progression of their sound, but it also feels like a step in the right direction for the metal landscape.

Review By GS Alvarez

Job for a Cowboy’s long-anticipated return finally came on February 23, 2024 with the release of their 5th studio album (and their first major release in almost ten years), Moon Healer. Each track packs a heavy, gruesome punch, with each featuring ripping basslines, technical drum work, and standout vocal performances.

The opening track “Beyond the Chemical Doorway” was the final single released for Moon Healer on January 31 of this year. It sets the tone for the album incredibly, opening with a menacing bass-guitar duo that’s sure to send chills down your spine.

The lyrics give you just a glimpse into Moon Healer’s explorations of psychedelic misery, and Jonny Davy’s deliveries are as evil as ever. The solo halfway through pushes this opener just over the line from deathcore to prog—a line Job for a Cowboy has been toeing since their debut album Genesis (2007).

“Beyond the Chemical Doorway” bleeds seamlessly into “Etched in Oblivion,” a much grindier track that switches to half time at the first chorus. A long guitar solo performed by lead guitarist Tony Sannicandro towards the end adds to the creeping edge of this track—a trend that can be seen through several songs on Moon Healer. This song ends suddenly and is punctuated by an incredible bass riff by Nick Schendzielos.

Schendzielos—known colloquially as Nick Shinz—kicks off the next track, “Grinding Wheels of Ophanim,” with another punchy bass riff. This song shows off Davy’s vocals, and not just through the resounding “Blegh!” towards the beginning.

He’s able to carry the story of the album, continued from “Etched in Oblivion,” with grit and emotion through the entire nearly-six-minute runtime of this song. The breakdown halfway through and the tempo increase at the ¾ mark help keep this track fresh throughout, and they really nail home the feeling of agony and psychedelia present throughout the whole album.

“Grinding Wheels” closes out with a clean spoken line, “The sun gave me ashes, so I sought out the moon,” which is the title of the next track. This tips back into deathcore for a bit—notably, it features more emphasis on Davy’s vocals and chugging guitar riffs—but the emphasis is on riffs, not chugging. Both Sannicandro and rhythm guitarist Al Glassman keep things fresh with a balance of clean and dirty guitar work.

After only a second of a break, “Into the Crystalline Crypts” pops in as if a seamless continuation of “The Sun Gave Me Ashes….” Of note on this track is impressive work by session drummer Navene Koperweis of Entheos (who I had the pleasure of seeing live at the Lorna Shore Christmas Show in Sayreville). He keeps things tightly moving, especially during a series of time signature changes halfway through.

“Crystalline Crypts” serves as the perfect track to put at the just-over-halfway point of Moon Healer, as the lyrics emphasize our main character as being at the fragmenting point of his psychedelic journey.

“A Sorrow-Filled Moon” starts off gentler than its predecessors, and our character finds himself at a low point. Slow, lingering guitar work, emphasized by crawling basslines, really forces you into the shoes of this character—I find this to be the most story-driven, concise song on the entire album. Davy explains that the world has “halt[ed] to a grind,” and the more precise, melodic sound of this track forces you to do the same.

While “A Sorrow-Filled Moon” fades gently into nothing, you aren’t given much room to fade away with it—the next track, “The Agony Seeping Storm,” knocks you right in the head with an in-your-face introduction. This song was released prior to the album on August 23, 2023, as Job for a Cowboy’s first new song in nine years. Hearing it in sequence with the rest of Moon Healer gives it a new life.

This song feels like a homage not just to their 2014 album Sun Eater, but also to their willingness to transcend genre. It features everything from funky basslines to The Black Dahlia Murder-grindiness, and to me feels like the most “traditional” Job for a Cowboy song ever produced.

Moon Healer closes with its second single, “The Forever Rot,” released initially on October 24, 2023. It’s the longest song on the record by far, coming in at nearly seven minutes, and it’s by far my favorite. Our character gives in to his psychedelic end, repeating his mantra, “Only that of which can destroy itself is truly alive,” and Davy delivers this line perfectly each time.

Schendzielos’ bass work is at its best on this song, creeping to the front of the mix sporadically through the whole song. The track—and the whole album—crescendos with a wailing guitar solo near the end, undercut by more incredible bass work and punctuated by Davy’s final cried-out verse; “No longer was I to be revived / My body had been purged / Bathed by the sound of flies.” And before you know it, Moon Healer has drawn to a close.

This is by far their most impressive, cohesive, and technical album. Job For A Cowboy has pushed boundaries with their last album Sun Eater, and Moon Healer not only feels like the natural progression of their sound, but it also feels like a step in the right direction for the metal landscape.

They were the pioneers of the deathcore sound back in 2005 with their release of the Doom EP, and if Moon Healer serves as the start of a new era of funky-prog-tech-death metal, then it’ll be wholly welcome.


Featured Image from Amazon.