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A long-lived veteran Maryland, USA, band of the old school, that was active between 1987 and 2013, then briefly reformed to play Maryland Doom Fest in 2016. Pro...
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Zaraza : Spasms Of Rebirth

A long break and a shift of styles has done nothing to water down Zaraza's black humour, hostility, cynicism and rage.



Zaraza, I suppose, must qualify as bona fide legends. The Polish duo, working out of Canada since 1993, produced a couple of the most fearsomely cold and experimental Industrial/Doom albums imaginable, then officially split up in 2006. Over a decade later, and somewhat out of the blue, their return was announced by a press release and news of the forthcoming 'Spasms Of Rebirth':
"It is a head on collision of all the musical influences that have shaped ZARAZA: doom metal, sludge metal, death metal, old-school 1980s industrial, experimental music.
No boundaries, no limits. Just doing our thing.
Sorry, no trendy 8-string, 9-string or 10-string guitars, sweeps, pinch harmonics, Steve Vai worship, emo vocals, or hardcore tough guy swearing. We’re too old for that fucking shit. We just want to make ugly, heavy music and prove to ourselves that we’re not dead yet."

Well, who can fault that kind of attitude, or the band's refusal to consider a nostalgic trip down the '90s memory lane. Instead, as they told us on the site forum:
"The arrival of the sludge genre in the 14 years we were away was a major influence on our reappearance.
I think we really belong there, with all our experimental/industrial atonal lineage."

And, indeed, one of the first and most noticeable underpinnings of 'Spasms Of Rebirth' is the way the hefty Industrial percussion of old has been reined back to a softer and more muffled presence, allowing waves of sludgy, grimy, bassy guitar to take centre stage behind the vocals. It's a somewhat warmer (relatively speaking) sound than previously, though actually no less brutal or experimental than its predecessors, once you start looking into its depths. The stark and skeletal main instrumentation sets distinct, staccato patterns of drumbeats and distorted riffs, their atonality and dissonance leaving plenty of spaces to be filled with a variety of brutal vocal deliveries, and for effects and keyboards to add weirdly ominous sounds to an indistinct fuzziness which sits pervasively behind much of the album.

Okay, you won't find anything that's quite as off-the-wall as 'Heart.Ov.The.Goat', or as weird as the off-key wave/electronica melody lines of 'Possessed By Skepticism', but you will certainly find other throwback features, such as the Industrial drill/grinder effect on 'Blood.Ov.Psychiatrists' (matching its deliciously murderous lyrics), or the layered vocal chanting of 'Church Of Gravity'. It would be hard to argue that it's anything less than a perfect reinvention, in fact: retaining enough of Zaraza's original nightmarish inhumanity and harshness to be recognisable, yet altering the soundstage far enough to present its twisted savagery in a whole different frame. In this respect, the experimentalism is less in the odd details found in the music - which are fewer - and more in the paradigm shift of the whole project. Considering it as a principally Sludge-based release, it's still pretty far out there and idiosyncratic in terms of how they've deployed the genre aesthetics to supplement rather than entirely replace other, older influences.

I have to admit, on first listening, I was a little disappointed not to get a reprise of the gloriously instantaneous headfuck of 'Slavic Blasphemy' or 'No Paradise To Lose'. Living with this album for a while has remedied that: it may have traded the sheer in-your-face confrontationalism of old Zaraza for a somewhat more mature and slow-growing approach, but it's abandoned none of its black humour, hostility, cynicism and rage in doing so - and listening to it fully is just as challenging and uncomfortable trip to the dark side. You simply need to concentrate on it a little harder to find those depths, rather than being able to ride an easier and more immediate 'wtf?' factor.

I think I can only really summarise 'Spasms Of Rebirth' by saying that if you're going to make an unexpected reappearance from the wilderness, this is a hell of a cool way to do it: such principled, genuinely revolutionary change is deserving of an awful lot of respect, when it would be so easy to rely on recycling past glories. As the defiant hookline of 'Maskwearer' reiterates: "We are not quite dead yet". How very true. Welcome back, guys.


Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.

Reviewer's rating: 9/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. Church Of Gravity
2. Maskwearer
3. Inti Raymi
4. Blood.Ov.Psychiatrists
5. Roadkill To You
6. Wulkan

Duration : Approx. 38 minutes

Visit the Zaraza bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-06-04 by Mike Liassides
Frowning-Extinct
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