New Jersey's Cognitive are both back with a new recording, as well as a new line-up. Following 2012's self-released debut EP The Horrid Swarm, vocalist Scheenier Ramirez and bassist Pete Ware departed from the group. In 2013 the band acquired bassist Art Sikora and vocalist Jorel Hart, both former members of Due for Extinction. Not too long after they inked a deal with Spain's Pathologically Explicit Recordings, as well as dropped their self-titled first full-length album. But have the line-up changes hindered them in any way, or is this new outing their strongest yet?

"Cut the Fuck Up" actually causes a slight disservice to the overall album thanks to how it favors traditional groove heavy Death Metal and breakdowns most of the time. It greatly downplays the technical prowess that makes up much of the material on Cognitive outside a few complex chords and intricate timing changes. This isn't to say it's a bad song, in fact it's really infectious. "Imbuing of Wrath" keeps this approach alive at the start, but about a minute in shifts towards some two-step drums and Metalcore hooks that pull this out of the dark and intimidating realm to more of a sleek and stylish sound. The guitar solo does give it a watery sensation, though not what you would consider aquatic, all to loosen you up before the simpler conclusion that is a bit more hostile thanks to the rich guttural vocal performance that can be found on complimenting every track on the release.

"Fire from the Sky" starts off with some intricate madness thanks largely to the drums and complex riffs. About a minute in the song calms down, moving towards a traditional chugging approach is impossible not to bang your head along to, even as some melody is injected to the mix leading to the short but sweet guitar solo. The closing seems to mix together two-step and a hint of Deathcore influence that builds to a decent breakdown to wrap things up, carrying into the start of "Affliction Humanity" and it's audio samples of news reports of various things like an oncoming storm, the moon landing, and so one. There's also "The Aftermath" which kicks off with some traditional Deathcore chugging, but gradually evolves to include precision later on in the timing once more, as well as creepy clean riffs that accentuate the already dark and commanding atmosphere of the album.

But it isn't until "Blood Hungry" that the band really shines. The louder twang of the bass and catchy riffs at the start are reminiscent of a toned down Atheist. It doesn't really crop back up, but there are plenty of different patterns and shifts from catchy material to Progressive or even downright abusive and intimidating. The focus even changes from the guitars to the consistent, often restrained drumming throughout the performance. And then there's "Willingness of the Weak," which combines dismal atmospheric leads originally introduced in the soothing interlude "Oceanic Erosion" with more violent complexity a little later. The breakdown towards the end fits, but doesn't quite have a slam intensity to match the material that came before, or even a conclusion similar to what appears at the end of "Imbuing of Wrath."

The only major gripe to really be had about the album is the washout on some of the cymbals. While it isn't all of them, most of that part of the kit is rather loud, and when the music really thins out to less complex material, or even if the pace just slows down a bit, the mixture of what crisp crashes exist mesh together with those carrying that extra compression to create something that can't be ignored. Other than that, Cognitive sounds rich, dark and uncompromising, accomplishing what Job for a Cowboy has been attempting since trying to become a legit Brutal Death Metal group and failing miserably at. Other than that, a little more technicality all around would be nice, but isn't really all that necessary given how fluid the release is, even when approached in a bare bones groove oriented manner.

Cognitive has steadily been making their presence felt in the Technical Death Metal community since 2012. While their debut EP, The Horrid Swarm, was a solid example of what the band was capable of, and this new effort only solidifies it. Cognitive shifts between technicality and groove quite well, showcasing tight, energetic performances that seem to have benefited greatly from the recent line-up change. If you're a fan of the Technical Death Metal style, you won't really find a lot of showmanship throughout the album, but what obvious and subtle intricacies exist make for an impressive effort worth getting your hands on.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.