Southern Lord Records
After eight years of destroying everything in their path, this Japanese band manages here to squish most of their expansive stoner rock-drone sound into 50 minutes. If you’re like most people and don’t know the band, think of them like this: They like to travel to other places when they play. There’s a Motörhead-sounding headbanger next to a Black Sabbath-inspired slow ride through hell. There’s a half-hour of pounding noise, sometimes courtesy of the Japanese one-man musical army and madman, guest-guitarist Merzbow. There are even hints of Nick Drake here! The record begins with a simple, ethereal, post-rock sounding trip through space that lasts seven minutes. The title track is a behemoth rocker that breaks the relatively relaxed vibe of the opener. It continues this way for the next songs. Then on “Nothing Special,” the trio lets loose a scorching ball of noise fueled by driving bass. The album’s tone is then interrupted by the black, bleak, down-tuned power chorder “Blackout,” which is Boris’ how-to guide to doom metal. More fuzz and stoner follow until the trippy chords of “My Machine” trails into the grand piece “Just Abandoned Myself,” which slowly dies in a 10-minute guitar and bass drone and dissolves into an aural pond of sweet noise and abrupt silence. And you’re left wondering ... what the fuck just happened?
With the lucky shadow of Ozzfest 2006 looming over them, this multicultural group blasts us with an album that’s one huge race of guitars and drums. A standout feature of most power metal is that the players are all are extremely skilled. And the two guitarists here, Hong Kong-born Herman Li and New Zealand native Sam Totman, shred everything in sight — their performances are downright inhuman. Dave Mackintosh is an interesting drummer, even adding unconventional blast beats to his arsenal of moves behind his kit. ZP Thearth is a capable singer too. It all fits; it all works. But therein sits the problem: The music is predictable. Listen to the first tune, “Through the Fire and Flames,” and you swear you’ve heard it all before. There’s the same double kick-drum pounding verse topped with epic choruses. And if you listen closely, you might even spot an influence from video game music. Yes, these dudes are skilled, but they’re also masters of the cliché. The one great thing they do is make the music so fast that it’s all you can do to pay attention. But one other thing is sure: It’ll make you wish for Bruce Dickinson.