Contrary to what some observers may presume, Black Cobra's shift of producer from Bay Area veteran Billy Anderson (High on Fire, Sleep, Los Natas, etc.) to the Salem, Massachusetts-based Kurt Ballou (Converge, Torche, Trap Them, basically the entire universe) for the recording of their fourth album, 2011's Invernal, did practically nothing to tidy up their sound, beyond possibly relinquishing a smidgeon of bottom end. Yet the band's dynamic duo of vocalist/guitarist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafa Martinez do appear ready to explore a few new sonic dynamics of their own volition, no matter who's producing them. So after peeling off a pair of familiarly inexorable riff engines in "Avalanche" and "Somnae Tenebrae," Black Cobra ease off the throttle just so on the excellent "Corrosion Fields" and "The Crimson Blade," then allow themselves an unprecedented amount of time on ensuing tracks "Beyond" and "Erebus Dawn" (six-minutes plus!) to develop ideas and even showcase more melodies amid the still reigning sharp-toothed riffing. The instrumental "Abyss" does feel a tad flat and repetitious following in these songs' tall shadows, but then the closing "Obliteration" wipes the floor with any doubters thanks to what may just be the most violent three minutes of Black Cobra's career. Having said that, it's pretty clear that Black Cobra are neither playing savage for savagery's sake à la Lair of the Minotaur nor being tempted by artier ambitions like a Baroness, and while they may still show an obvious debt to High on Fire, their songs, by and large, are far too memorable in their own right for anyone to confuse inspiration with plagiarism -- especially after nearly a decade of work and four albums this impressive, among which Invernal (with its short and sweet, 40-minute running time, tailor-made for today's short attention spans) stands especially tall.