It may sound like a contradiction in terms but, with The Demise of Daniel Raincourt, Glens Falls rock sextet Cosmonauts have managed to compress an impressively well-wrought conceptual epic into the EP format. To be exact, Daniel Raincourt is the second part of a saga that began with the band’s debut The Disfiguration of Emily Malone last March and includes a veritable graphic novel of supplementary material in text and illustrations.
The song cycle follows Daniel Raincourt, a desperately heartbroken man, who, after the death of his sister and departure of his wife for his former brother-in-law, begins seeing visions of his former orphan friend Emily Malone, who killed herself years before after a childhood of abuse. To say that the tone of the EP is dire and emotionally harrowing would be a vast understatement. With progressive guitar riffing and melodramatic vocal leads, Cosmonauts push past their metal and emo influences to craft a macabre suburban gothic that yearns for domestic stability while it falls apart one limb at a time.
Produced by Travis Gray at Queensbury’s Echo City Studios, the miniepic spares no production flourishes. The seven-minute “Slow Decay” all but trades in the pop song structure for something more conducive to narrative, not unlike a showtune, actually, while the eight-minute “Heritage Day Parade” rides a few rampaging verses and guitar solos into a dirging bridge and demented music box outro. This and the titular closing track get symphonic treatment in the liner notes, subdivided and -titled into movements for thematic continuity.
Like the best of conceptual rock, it takes close listening and a little bit of guesswork to take the narrative as a cohesive whole, but this lets each track stand independently and allows for more creative sequencing in the live context. Cosmonauts have made themselves familiar to local rock clubs in the past year, but with all of their recorded output focusing on the Raincourt saga, it will be interesting to see if they remain a vehicle for the story as they no doubt earn a larger audience.