Metal it seems in all its shapes and sizes is bringing forth a new wave of prominent and promising artists from countries not known to your average metalhead. Bringing their brand of progressive sludge come Ireland’s ZHORA, a four-piece unit set on tearing apart anyone brave enough to stand before them. After releasing their debut EP Feet Nailed to the Ground in 2011 and their debut LP Almaz in 2013, the band has risen to the top of the Irish scene and earned them places at both Wacken Open Air and Bloodstock Festival. This push forward is now realised in their second full length LP: Ethos, Pathos, Logos, a full hour-long concept album set on refining their sound and pushing the limits.
Opening with The Stone the band slowly smash open the album with a calm, slow and synthesised backdrop accompanying the pounding drums. The vocals from Colin Bolger here are smooth and soft, before exploding in typical sludge fashion with thick low-slung thunder of the guitars in unison. Coming out the over end is Riverchrist, seeing the band go into full assault with a barrage of double bass drums, raw and heavily distorted guitars guiding the progression alongside the perfectly suited vocals. The song shifts through blastbeats, numerous tempo changes and shifts in direction to keep the user in a state of constant surprise. Sin Eater continues the aggression, a fast paced bruiser that really shows off the ability of each individual, with a brief drum solo following the breakdown of guitars and bass into an abyss of distorted noise. The vocals here are chaotic and anthemic, bringing with them a feeling not dissimilar to that of MASTODON; high praise for an up and coming band within the genre.
The Breach starts slowly, allowing the guitars and drums to set the bleak scene set before Colin Bulger unleashes his dark and powerful wrath, highlighting his talent above the riffage below. The rhythm section sprawls into a tight and technical tirade, chunky guitars and thunderous bass help to pin down the aggression before a bass solo from Alan O’Hanlon brings forth an atmospheric break. This setting carries on as the vicious vocals return to bring the song to an epic ending after over seven minutes of pristine modern sludge.
Jettatura is much in the same vein of The Breach; a nearly eight minute long epic filled with several different progressions which help to keep the song exciting and fresh. The transitions are brought through long sets of instrumentation setting a dark and hellish atmosphere through the layers of echoing guitars and endlessly belligerent drums, this shows the bands modern progressive edge over traditional sludge metal bands. Infernal Liturgy in comparison is a much slower and shorter affair, the band focusing on the cold ambient setting created over progression and chunky riffs.
Turmoil begins in a slightly odd and more progressive metal fashion with a light and tight lick before the sludge returns and brings forth the low end to accompany the lick seamlessly. Layers of clean vocals here create a wall of sound before the song transforms, adding a thick meaty riff in perfect timing with the drums. Perhaps the most interesting song on the album follows: Rubic(On) the Styx, a slow burner which features mostly layered clean vocals among a calm and toned down backdrop. Crisp guitars provide delayed nuances over the technical beats and thumping bass keep the track moving into a realm otherwise unseen on this spectrum of metal. A surprising guitar solo also features before the songs draws out a slow and typically sludge ending fading its way into darkness.
Starting with a choir like vocal performance before an acoustic guitar beckons; Earth’d carries on the progressive torch and could be labelled as a ballad, its soft and appeasing nature is a surprise as the guitars and bass turn down the distortion in favour of licks and almost blues-based playing. As the song presses on the guitars turn themselves up slightly before another blazing solo from Pancho O’Meara appears out of nowhere. It fits the song nicely and doesn’t overstep its mark. Server, Seer, Soothsayer comes out the other end and begins through a highly impressive drum fill, riffs then commence focusing more on a heavy chug based line compared to the otherwise as usual very high standard of riffs. The transitions throughout the eight minute epic are spacey and well thought out with clean vocals featured alongside the harsh to create a thick and intensive dichotomy. Album closer Tabula Rasa sees ZHORA refuse to reign the chaos in as this final near eight minute monster possesses some of the most technical and intricate playing on the album. Halfway through all is changed and ZHORA launch into full attack mode, the drums explode into tremendous speed, guitars are multi layered and bring both noise and dive bombs before the calm settles in, the band ending softly.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos is both satisfying for fans of the genre while bringing forth a level of accessibility for new fans to sink their teeth into. Overall this second full length shows a refined and improved sound, the progressive nature isn’t overbearing and the dual bearing between sludge is well thought out and exercised swiftly. The production is thick and raw with the guitars and bass cutting through the mix nicely against the layers of vocals or the chaotic crashing of drums. The scenes and ambience created amongst the many heavy riffs may unsettle many however when taken in whole context of the album as opposed to separate track playing; the end result is a sludge epic with enough unique elements to separate ZHORA from others within the scene and setting a bar high enough to worry veterans within the genre throughout
Ethos, Pathos, Logos is set for release on October 27th via self-release.
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