Job for a Cowboy: Second Coming
Originally published in Guitar World, October 2009
Job for a Cowboy get in your face with Ruination, their hard-hitting follow-up to Genesis. Bobby Thompson and Al Glassman shoot the shit.
By conventional standards, Job for a Cowboy’s 2007 full-length debut, Genesis, was a resounding success. The disc entered the Billboard album chart at No. 54, the highest position for any metal debut since the first Slipknot record, and earned the death metal band slots on 2007’s Sounds of the Underground and 2008’s Gigantour. To date, Genesis has sold more than 77,500 copies, a considerable amount in an age of illegal file sharing.
But although the album catapulted Job for a Cowboy out of Glendale, Arizona, and into the metal mainstream, the two-year supporting tour was sometimes torturous for guitarist Bobby Thompson. It wasn’t the touring he disliked—it was the album.
“It just wasn’t very mature sounding,” Thompson says, speaking from the band’s shared home a month before the release of JFAC’s second record, Ruination (Metal Blade). “The riffs weren’t very technical, and a lot of the songs sounded the same. When we finished it I was excited because it was the first thing we had done, but after a while I realized a lot of it was really lame. We tried hard not to make the same mistakes on the new record.”
In that they succeeded. Ruination isn’t just a step up from Genesis, it’s a monumental leap, a crushing album filled with precise and multifaceted guitar work that should distinguish Job for a Cowboy from the deathcore pack. “There was a bit of a conscious effort to put some distance between us and that deathcore thing,” Thompson admits. “It’s something we’ve been lumped into from the start, but only because that’s all we were capable of playing when we wrote our  Doom EP when everyone in the band was 16.”
Ruination rips and roars with songs that range from ominous and doomy Neurosis-style chugs to world-ending conflagrations reminiscent of Morbid Angel. While it has plenty of the slow breakdowns that are a staple of modern, extreme metal, they’re written as a way to raise and lower a song’s tension level rather than to incite frenzied moshing.
“A lot of people write a record because time’s up and the label needs it,” says Al Glassman, the former Despised Icon guitarist who replaced Cowboy axman Ravi Bhadriraju late last year. “We wrote a record because we needed to, as musicians, and we worked our asses off to make sure it was the way we wanted it to be.”
Glassman brought new life to Job for a Cowboy, whose members include singer Jonny Davy, bassist Brent Riggs and drummer Jon “The Charn” Rice. Glassman has a strong right hand and writes riffs requiring rapid-fire down picking; Thompson favors his left hand and creates passages filled with textural embellishments and multi-note fills. “I think having to adapt to one another’s styles helped us both grow as players,” Thompson says. “It kept us challenged, and it was cool to work with someone who came from a completely different perspective.”
Glassman says, “A lot of times I would come up with the beginning of a riff and Bobby would just do this cool left-hand thing for the tail of it. So we were writing everything together as opposed to writing our parts separately and then showing them to each other.”
While all the tracks on Genesis were in drop A# tuning (drop D down two whole steps), Ruination features eight songs written in D standard and two in C standard. Exploring different tunings was creatively rewarding for Thompson, who often found himself at odds with Bhadriraju’s preference for drop tunings. “I just never felt right playing in drop tuning,” he says. “Standard feels more like home. The higher tuning allows you to get better tones and the riffs come through more clearly. It doesn’t sound like you’re playing through mud. That’s something I was never able to get through to Ravi before.”
Even so, when Bhadriraju quit last December to go to college, it was the last thing his bandmates wanted. He had co-founded the band in 2003, and his churning riffs and rudimentary leads formed the backbone of Genesis.
Thompson recalls, “At first, I was like, Shit, this dude brought me into the band and he’s one of my best friends. I don’t want him to go. We work really well together. At the same time, I could tell it wasn’t working for him any more and he had to go do what he needed to do. And in the end, I think it was a blessing in disguise. It helped us move forward creatively.”
With Bhadriraju out of the lineup, Job for a Cowboy called Glassman, who they knew from their numerous tours with Despised Icon. As it happened, Glassman was frustrated by Despised Icon’s sonic limitations and his bandmates’ unwillingness to let him help write. He immediately made plans to relocate to Arizona.