Few people would probably notice, but I write very few album reviews unless they’re accompanying our premiere of a full album stream (and occasionally I include brief ones as part of a Sunday SHADES OF BLACK post). It’s not for lack of interest, but for lack of time. But I’ve been inspired by my friend DGR‘s massive catching-up exercise this week, in which he funneled 13 reviews our way in one fell swoop. There’s no way I can catch up to that extent, but I found myself with a little extra time over the last 24 hours, and so I’ve made a small effort to recommend two recent releases by bands near and dear to my black heart. One more will follow this review today.
In his brief introduction to DECIBEL‘s premiere stream of Zombiefication‘s new album earlier this month, Dutch Pearce wrote that “this Mexican duo seem to have undergone a potent metamorphosis” since their last releases, and that “Below the Grief bombards the listener with sounds both reminiscent of the past and completely novel in the realm of death metal.” Although he didn’t elaborate, I would agree.
On the one hand, Zombiefication abundantly prove throughout the new album that they’re highly skilled at delivering the kind of hurricane-strength marauding that gets heads whipping and adrenaline pumping through the bloodstream. They thunder and batter, jab and jolt, seethe and scythe, cutting wide swaths of bombastic destruction through the listener’s brain pan, reaching extravagant levels of wild, rampant viciousness.
“Wild” is definitely the word for Mr. Hitchcock‘s vocals, which definitely aren’t standard for death metal. With rare exceptions, he doesn’t growl or roar or scream. He yells and cries out — his voice cracking and splintering with such penetrating intensity that you quickly become convinced he’s not holding anything back. If you were bound and on your knees, being forced to watch as terrorists or stormtroopers were about to execute your children right in front of you, you might sound like this. The wrenching anguish and explosive emotional turmoil in his voice is at that level, just utterly unhinged.
There’s equal emotional intensity in the music as well, and it ranges far and wide, the melodies soaring to heights of searing agony and plummeting to depths of despairing gloom. Zombiefication are adept at getting heads banging hard and discharging the kind of full-throttle frenzies that would whip up a mosh pit, but you get the sense they know that’s easy stuff (or at least easy for them), and that they’re much more interested in taking their music out into more difficult and unusual terrain. Doom plays a role in their melodies, as does the creation of sensations of eerie occult mysticism, but they don’t stop there either.
The music becomes soulful, and it becomes glorious — harmonious as well as dissonant. It’s deeply sinister — preternaturally so — and it’s also deeply human. It crashes into your head in maelstroms of hard-hammering, un-strung violence and derangement, and is just as effective at making you feel genuine sorrow, and hope.
And it’s not as if they decided, “we’ll do this thing in this song, and this different thing in that song.” They move from one sensation to the next within their songs in richly dynamic fashion; the tempos, rhythms, energy levels, and moods are in almost constant flux; and they execute these changes in ways that somehow aren’t jarring. Even if lots of these tracks do feel like roller-coaster rides, they don’t come off the rails and go flying into thin air; it’s a twisting and turning, vaulting and diving experience, and a hugely thrilling one, but Zombiefication are always on course, following the path they’ve charted so meticulously and so very well.
And so, huge credit is due to the songwriting of Jacobo Córdova, aka Mr Jacko (who is also the man behind Majestic Downfall), and to his top-shelf performance skill, which enables the band to realize these multi-faceted, elaborately textured, and emotionally intense visions.
I have no hesitation in providing the highest recommendation for Below the Grief, which is for this writer one of the best death metal albums I’ve heard this year, and one I think is going to stay with me a very long time. It was released by Doomentia on July 15th.
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