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Zakaz - Myrkur og dauði - 87%

Edmund Sackbauer, May 2nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Schattenkult Produktionen (Limited edition)

Black metal from Iceland has gained massive respect over the past few years. Sinmara, Svartidaudi and a lot of others have not only put this small country onto the map music-wise, but also above more or less each other scene. Known for their dense, aggressive, highly atmospheric black metal that has its own distinct voice fans of the genre have become ecstatic whenever another outfit appeared from below the ice floes of the frozen sea. One of the many bands is Zakaz from Reykjavik who have been formed in 2012. Meanwhile they have released three full lengths, and “Myrkur og daudi” has been the debut.

On this album Zakaz managed to create a sound that is both extremely hard-hitting and highly melodic, inserting enough earworm riffs into their songwriting to even picky listeners for months to come. All the tracks offer pure rush of black metal darkness replete with robust blast beats and fantastically melodramatic guitar-driven majesty. There is a certain dissonant vibe inherent in the music, but ultimately the epic hooks are dominating, with the combination of chaos and order, darkness and light creating a dense yet captivating atmosphere.

The riffs are played with a lot of passion, often being re-used with small variations. The sinister main chords are pitched against lofty themes, with each song having enough trademark harmonies to set itself apart from the others. The rhythm section is setting the groove, often switching between pure madness and more laid-back style within a few moments. The flow of the album is great, sending the passive consumer on a trip across frozen landscapes and caverns of ice.

Despite the icy darkness, and for all their focus on the most melodically engaging elements of the genre’s sound, their forte still remains the crushing, oppressive weight of black metal songwriting done right. Of course the typical tremolo runs are part of the game, as well as blast sections and howling vocals. I know this sounds cheesy, but somehow Icelandic black metal seems to be the equivalent of the country itself. Frosty and unfriendly, but also absolutely fascinating and beautiful.

The production is a bit different, and at first I was put slightly off. However, the somehow distant character of the sound underlines the mystical nature of “Myrkur og daudi”, and once I got used to it I could not imagine it any other way. I am not sure if Zakaz can be seen as part of the spearhead of the Icelandic black metal scene, as the peer group is extremely strong. In case you are a fan of that specific style and cannot get enough of it or would like to get a first taste of what makes this local scene so interesting, this record is definitely worth checking out.

Colliding, Swelling, Harrowing - 75%

TheStormIRide, June 17th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Schattenkult Produktionen (Limited edition)

Though Iceland appears idyllic in photographs and travelogs, the minuscule country that boasts a smaller population than the fifty-seventh most populous city in the United States has a interesting knack for churning out the most dissonant and soul crushing black metal in history. Bands like Svartidauði and Misþyrming and, by extension, Martröð and Skáphe, appear to the be the banner waving creatures of dissonance, yet the Icelandic metal scene branches much further than base glances would have you believe. German label Schattenkult Produktionen has been uncovering some vastly overlooked projects over the years and the Icelandic entity known as Zakaz has joined that group, with their debut album Myrkur og dauði.

While a majority of the tracks were available on the band's 2015 demo of the same name, the full length debut, which was released in 2016, adds an additional two tracks bringing the running time to forty-two minutes. Zakaz's music combines black metal and atmospheric doom without fully committing to either side of the fence. This allows the band to present everything from fast paced black metal to staggering, monolithic doom to atmospheric soirees while still keeping a cohesive sound.

Warbling trem riffs and slow moving percussion back a deep and cavernous growls, which frequently collide with jarring, staccato chords and thunderous bass. Dissonant black/death metal surges forward chaotically before halting for militantly paced percussion and choral chanting and moving towards plodding atmospheric doom, as heard on “Gröfin”. While blackened trem riffing and swelling doom metal are the basis for the the band's sound, they nimbly jump around between various addendums without sounding forced or contrived.

For all its serpentine grandeur and abysmal wallowing, Myrkur og dauði is a rather difficult album to digest in one sitting. It could be thick yet murky production, with the bass and percussion filling the rear end of every second. That being said, one can still clearly make out all of the instrumentation; it's just that the presentation is harrowing and draining. Regardless, its quite nice to hear something from Iceland that's not just another disso-black/death band cut from the usual cloth. File this one under quite listenable and enjoyable in spite of its (seemingly minor) faults.

Written for The Metal Observer.

Icelandic BM again - 85%

dismember_marcin, September 14th, 2016

I don’t know what happened that suddenly the Icelandic black metal scene got so much attention. It’s almost like a new trend. I do have to admit that some of these bands have a great quality and their success is truly deserved. But some other are simply overrated – I’m not gonna give you names, think for yourself! Anyway, you have to admit that this is a very hyped scene at the moment. Why do I write all this? Because here’s another band from Reykjavik, Iceland, called Zakaz. The name is rather Polish sounding haha, but their debut release is called “Myrkur og dauði”, released through Schattenkult Produktionen. This is a new band and I doubt if any of the members – who all hide behind weird names I, II, III and IV ha! – were or still are also involved in other projects. It doesn’t matter. What does though is that I really liked this album a lot!

But before you will listen to “Myrkur og dauði” try not to think of all these popular, hyped Icelandic bands like Svartidaudi or Misþyrming, because musically Zakaz has very little in common with them. I was actually quite surprised when I was listening to “Myrkur og dauði” for the first time, because I didn’t expect to hear direction, in which the music at some point has progressed. As it turned out, the whole 42 minutes hide very varied, uncommon but highly enjoyable black metal. Yeah, it’s black metal and the beginning of the album is basically a straight to the point thing, with raw, quite fast and aggressive playing. But “Gröfin” is far from the common means of this style and at some point also surprises, with clean vocals or slower, doomy parts somewhere near the end of this track. All in all, it’s a great and well arranged song. Such harsh, vicious and cold sounding black metal is present also in other songs like “Dauði”, but it never sounds dull and primitive and some riffs are quite uncommon for this style of music. But at some point Zakaz takes also a surprising turn into doomy black metal! Slow pace, great harmonious guitar work, very melancholic, sorrowful atmosphere – this is what you will find in many parts of “Myrkur og dauði”.

I guess “Nótt” is the first really surprising song here. It’s an instrumental piece, but very melodic and sort of pleasant sounding, so it’s something way different than “Gröfin” for example. Also “Endurfæðing” really captures my attention – I have to say that with such songs Zakaz reminds me Ulver from their old, demo days. “Upplifun” is truly a standout song, oh man, it sounds simply fantastic with that majestic, epic, almost bombastic sound, which then abruptly is changed for vicious, angry fast black metal. Then we have “Hamur”, which sometimes reminds me some 90’s melodic black metal bands from Sweden, so maybe this is why I really fuckin like this song a lot. But basically every song brings something different. Zakaz's music is never one dimensional, so even within one track you can expect to hear tempo changes, different variations on black metal and so on. One thing is certain – the atmosphere is truly cold and melancholic. I suppose that such sounds really capture the essence of Icelandic landscapes, which you can see on the photographs that are in the booklet. Yeah, it all fits perfectly. And “Myrkur og dauði” is one of the best debuts of this year, speaking of black metal.

Standout tracks: “Hamur”, “Gröfin”, “Upplifun”
Final rate: 85/100