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I am not too wild about new Root material. It’s not my cup of tea at all, really. Their old stuff however (the demos, Zjeveni, Hell Symphony, and the Temple in the Underworld), I love. But I am in no way bashing new Root, because it obviously is extremely well put together and I can understand why someone into that form of metal would like it, but personally, when it comes to metal, I really only listen to the old stuff (and some newer bands who play older sounding forms of metal). And that is just what Zjeveni is – old school, archaic, haunting, off kilter black metal, done in a completely unique fashion, just like what most of those of Czech bands were doing at the time. This album is just amazing. The production, the songwriting, the riffs, the atmosphere, the vocals, etc. It is all just brilliant.
The production on here really does the music justice. It has a very cavernous and chilling aura to it, and gives all the instruments plenty of room to breath and work off one another perfectly. The vocals are upfront, where they should be, and are panned dead center. The guitars are double tracked, one in each channel, and give the album a powerful riff-driven sound, with the bass guitar and drums working as the engine. The drums have quite a heavy sound and were obviously well miked and mixed adequately. The bass drum could be a tad bassier, but it does its job.
Big Boss has always had a great voice, even on the demos. But on here, they have progressed incredibly into something that is just simply amazing. On here, he has moved on to a much deeper register, and although he isn’t quite growling, he is certainly doing something of that nature. It is more of a guttural rasp, and the fact that it is all in Czechoslovakian makes it even better, as it is one of the coolest languages out there. It seems a lot these great Czech black metal bands had interesting vocalists, such as the mighty Törr and incredible Master’s Hammer. The two guitars on here have great tones. They have an ancient and frigid sound, drenched in heavy reverb and steaming with harsh, blackened distortion. But what would a good guitar tone be without the riffs to back it up? Not much, but that is not the case here. The riffs are pretty well varied, and are actually quite strange in some sections, incorporating things such as dissonance and note clusters. The bass has a clean tone and pretty much just follows the root notes of the guitars, except when they go into a lead or bridge, in which case it usually sticks to the previous riff. The drums are executed very well, and Black Drum really knows his way around a drum kit. He varies the tempos up quite a bit, and knows how to use dynamics in a way that can create a really epic feeling, especially during songs like “Cesta Zkázy”, which starts out with clean vocals, a slow riff, and tom fills, eventually building into the high speed frenzies and tempo changes seen throughout the song.
This is an excellent album, and to all fans of unique, ancient, Czech black metal, I recommend you check it out, despite your possible distaste for the band’s new material.
To all those who were amazed by Big Boss's amazing operatic vocals and the magical sound of modern Root... This is not for the weak of will.
While their later albums, starting with The Temple In The Underground, had an epic style with a more delicate stylistic approach, and Hell Symphony was a great piece of technically prolificent black metal, Zjeveni is a gathering of tracks in the vein of the early demos of the band. Which, of course, come very close to the sound of bands like Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. Very, very close.
What makes this album superior to crappy Hellhammer worshippers and faggy black/thrash fans is the songwriting. The rhythms range from mid-paced, slowed down black metal to Celtics' speed metal and sometimes deathier double bass reminiscent of Sepultura's death tinged thrash style. Several songs, like Zjeveni and 7 Eernych Jezdcu, include mildly sinister acoustic passages, which take some of the charm of the song, but make the structure more solid in a ritualistic way. Don't expect 100 riffs per song, because you will die by disappointment. There are usually only two or three riffs to be found in each track. The leads also set an ugly, creepy mood, even if they are not the Malmsteen how-many-notes-can-you-play style. Their distortion is pretty strange for black metal standards, and to be honest, they remind me a lot of Butthole Surfers' deranged psychedelic brand. Big Boss adopted the standard black/death growl here, with occasional spoken parts and torn-from-the-grave eerie grunts. A honest and unpretentious style, I dare to say. Noticed the presence of electronic weird effects, like in Aralyon, with that nasty vocal effect, and Vyslech, with some scary chaotic disparated sounds.
Overall, a good acquirement for those who love old-school overlooked albums from overlooked bands.