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A victim of its own novelty - 55%

we hope you die, July 31st, 2019

Let's look at Zyklon-B, an industrial black metal grindcore supergroup. Made up of members of Emperor and Satyricon, this may be the band they all now wish the world forgot given the name. Given that their sole EP was called ‘Blood Must Be Shed’ (1995) and the cover featured a mushroom cloud and all the songs are about war and feature samples from genocide enthusiasts and explosions…are we to take the name with a pinch of salt? The band expressly stated that they were not affiliated with any political or racial preference. But in this day and age, now that fascists are real again and not limited to creepy alt right websites like anus.com, I imagine the band members themselves would rather bury this project.

Controversy aside, is it any good? Considering it sits on that dodgy territory of ‘cyber black metal’, which essentially mashes two genres already at DEFCON 1 when it comes to being taken seriously, this one just scrapes by as a curiosity if nothing else. The components taken in isolation are relatively unremarkable. Guitars are thin and harsh and fast in the black metal tradition, drums likewise. Vocals would possibly be more at home on a hardcore punk record, but here they are so buried in the mix as to sound distant, perhaps spacious? Which leaves it to Ihsahn’s keyboards to really save the day.

It’s really not that often that one can say this about metal of this ilk – militaristic, aspiring to brutality, aggressive – but the keyboards really tie the music together. OK, so the guitars do some of the work, utilising ascending chord progressions atop Frost’s flawless blast-beats to create a sense of inevitable dread. But the distorted string sound that makes regular appearances throughout this EP really gives it an atmosphere all of its own. Beyond the simplicity of the leather trench coat wearing, Armageddon advocate, hard industrial enthusiast, it really is elevated in the emotional department by these simple string layers. It grants a sense of sorrow and humanity to the obsession with life’s end which, if lacking, would make this a one dimensional romp in the apocalyptic.

So let’s conclude by saying that ‘Blood Must Be Shed’ succeeds only in the sense that it does the bare minimum to distinguish itself as something other than a novelty act. There are some interesting ideas in there. But all of them spring from the fact that these are well accomplished musicians to whom composing comes naturally, rather than from the over-egged concept. To put it another way, it succeeds in spite of all the window dressing, not because of it. If anything, it’s an annoying distraction to what is otherwise so-so black metal heavily informed by grindcore.

Originally published at Hate Meditations