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Rawness and enthusiasm only go so far. - 60%

Stillborn Machine, July 28th, 2016

Primordial and misshapen horrors were said to have dwelled in the swampy depths of the extreme metal underground during the ’80s, many of them resembling radiation-soaked mutations of the most base and atavist elements of extreme metal. It’s a time that even with the advent of the internet is still shrouded in mystery, home to few well-known names like Deceased and Morbid Angel alongside countless obscurities such as Exmortis, Necrovore, Dead Conspiracy, and Bloodspill. So what happens when someone attempts to recreate this dark age of metal?

Well, mixed results first and foremost. After all, for all the romanticizing of this time period, it had many flaws and ZOM’s debut is a good example of this, authentic in its throwback nature and accurate in that it has the strengths as well as weaknesses associated with the countless metal legions that would never make it far beyond a few demos.

ZOM’s sound revels in primal riffage with a deliberate absence of melody, with much of their riffing existing in an interesting grey zone from when death and black metal were nearly done excising much of the thrash influence and starting to tone down the punk. They are absurdly evocative, lacking the polish and streamlining of those who’d come afterwards in exchange for such basic but viscerally gripping riff shapes that battle it out in the depths like ancient predators determining the food chain’s hierarchy.

These songs batter and gnash against themselves in generally fast-paced chromatic conflict, haphazard in their transition between altering tempos and flippant attitude towards structure. Even when they slow down, it certainly doesn’t feel tamed or warmed over, still dripping bile and blood from mandibles and claws before lunging into a blast-buffered fury. The end result is a satisfyingly feral package that is shamelessly arrogant in its reductive riffing and hits with the force of a stampeding barbarian horde.

Unfortunately, this strength is linked to its greatest flaw. Namely, that they sacrifice coherency for carnage. Although they use but a handful of riffs for each one, the emphasis on constant extremes of riffing and pacing lends to a few moments of dawdling, directionless excess. Transitions can come across as coming too early, leaving many of their thematic precepts underdeveloped or simply left hanging. Many of these riffs, while they work individually, have a bit of trouble connecting as a whole so the nuts and bolts that hold a lot of these tracks together are shaky compositionally and questionably chosen in other occasions. In that sense it resembles a garage-level death metal band that’s actually a bit more confident than the average competition but still has the same flaw in that these songs have trouble developing overarching ideas to hold it all together and derive a greater sense of purpose or even order from their barely contained chaos.

If you can look past that and just want some hellish noise from the depths of forgotten times, then this album will click with you more than its lukewarm score might imply. It’s a great idea, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not really a fully developed one. Quick flashes of promise peer out here and there and hopefully these Irelanders will go ahead and capitalize on it for future releases. For now it’s a satisfying, if a little limiting, extreme metal experience.

Originally posted on The Metal Observer