(Andy Synn reviews the debut EP by Sanzu.)
Much like another recent review of mine, it’s impossible to conduct any sort of write-up of the debut EP by Australian Death Metal troubadours Sanzu without referencing the ever-present spectre of their main inspiration.
In this case the band’s particular brand of bludgeoning, biomechanical groove clearly owes a heavy debt to French heavyweights Gojira, with every nerve-jangling pick-scrape and raw, bellowing vocal line steeped in the band’s undeniable influence.
Yet there’s clearly also much more than mere hero worship going on here, as the quintet manage to put their own distinctive spin on things, opting for a heavier focus on the Death Metal side of things which allows for an even heavier delivery than that of their idols.
Also, did I mention that it’s really fucking heavy?
Of course it helps the band’s cause that the field of post-Gojira disciples is actually pretty thin, so despite the sonic similarities to everyone’s favorite Frenchmen, the Perth-based powerhouse don’t have to worry about the problem of over-saturation.
And I guess it also helps that Painless happens to be one of the best releases I’ve heard this year!
Fantastic opener “18 Years of Rain” is 3:48 of murderously efficient Death Metal chuggery and lacerating tremolo riffage that simultaneously recalls ascendant Tech-Death types Rivers of Nihil whilst also putting its own punishing, metaphysical spin on things, while the crunch-tastic “For All” comes across like a mash-up between the malevolent riffage of the legendary Morbid Angel and the asphyxiating rhythmic tightness and progressive leanings of UK underdogs Rannoch colliding in a slow-motion apocalypse of brooding atmosphere and utterly crushing intensity.
Don’t let these comparisons fool you into thinking that the Aussie antagonists are mere plagiarists and copycats though – they’re not. Though they’re certainly of a kind with their peers and influences, they’re not in thrall to them, and with Painless they’ve definitely managed to carve out a specific niche all for themselves.
Of course the glowering shadow of the Gallic kaiju still hangs over the EP, particularly during the closing pairing of “Variant Red” — a 7:41 testament to the sheer power of the band’s hyper-modernised assault (with its liberal use of pick-scrapes and unconventional pseudo-melodic moments) – and “Lunar Crush” (with its coiling, cybernetic riffs and elegantly precise application of metallic force), but somehow Sanzu manage to come out the other side smelling of potential, rather than plagiarism.
So yes, while the shape and the form of the band’s monstrous Death Metal sound is certainly a familiar one in many ways, what we might just have here is an enhanced mutation. One more aggressive and abrasive, designed for maximum killing capacity.
Basically what we have here is Mecha-Gojira.
And who DOESN’T want to see that fight?
Painless is available right now from the group’s Bandcamp site — http://sanzu.bandcamp.com/ — where you can also contribute to the pre-order of their debut album, scheduled for release at the end of the year.