Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Alchemical Mixture - Naga & Zodiac (album reviews)

From: Naples, Italy.  Rating: 5/5.  Total Run Time: 22:50.
Release Date: January 17, 2013
Italian doom band Naga have unleashed their demo upon the unsuspecting masses on bandcamp as a 'pay what you want' deal.  The demo's made up of two lengthier tracks, rather on the razor edged distortion side of the doom ledger.  The band is made up of two thirds of the sludge doom band Kill the Easter Rabbit (KTER), who haven't been heard from since 2010's 'Apokatastasis' full-length album.  Like Spinal Tap before them, they have gone through their share of drummers, Naga's charter beat-basher, Dario, is a twelve year plus veteran of the band Nameless Crime.  One other roster move to report, they have switched from a twin guitar attack to a guitar and bass lineup with Emanuele Schember moving to bass.

Okay, with that all out of the way as an introduction, now it's time to dig into the music.  "The Path" opens things up with a sludgy doom riff and strong dynamics.  It doesn't take long for Dario to prove himself a powerful, dynamic drummer and a perfect fit with Emanuele and Lorenzo.  Straight off, the vocals are more brutal, more angry and less melodic than those of KTER, the last gasps of a dying wretch.  It's a great song that leaves nothing on the table, tempos are explored, dynamics exploited and that old feeling emerges of when doom was brand new (at least to the listener) matte black and dangerous.

"Vitriol" also explores inter-song dynamics, using major-minor chord variation to create an emotionally devastating effect.  If being chewed up and swallowed by some prehistoric monster was music, this is what it would sound like: chomping rhythms, crushing riffs, ringing splashes of light and saliva followed by a long journey down a very dark tunnel as the song changes and the band explores new tracts of sonic territory.

I'll be perfectly honest with you, this is exactly what I'm looking for in my doom.  Give me riffs, draw them out, change them up, take them to the burial chamber and make them suffer.  You don't always know what you're looking for until you hear it and Naga's two song demo may not make you sit up and take instant notice, but once the band begins exploring dynamics and different textures it all comes together.  It's only then that you realize: "I've been needing to hear this for a long time and didn't even know it".

From: Brisbane, Australia.  Rating: 5/5.  Total Run Time: 24:13.
Release Date: February 17, 2013
Another band that gives me that sweet and sour doomed feeling is Brisbane, Australia trio Zodiac.  While info on the band is sparse, I do know that the band features three fifths of hardcore punk band Last Chaos and I suppose it was time for these guys to embrace the doom and worship the riff.  So mote it be.

The big seventies-style doom riff plays a huge part of their sound.  Distinctive and melodic vocals and drums that add textures and layers to the storytelling rather than simply keep time weave a powerful spell over the listener.  Zodiac is a great band with a powerful and genuine traditional doom / paleo-metal sound.  A band whose tape can honestly be said to sound as though it actually was written and recorded during the late seventies or early eighties is a rare find.  They don't do it by copying and pasting their favorite sounds of the era into 'scrapbook songs', it's something achieved by production values, a refined ear and intuition.  Oh yeah, did I mentioned they released this three song demo on cassette tape?
The tape has sold out but it's still available from Nuclear Blood and No Patience in Australia, along with Shadow Kingdom, Hells Headbangers, I Hate Records & At War With False Noise.  I've got mine!

Riffs plunge down a Bermuda's triangle vortex of the classic devil's third tritone on opener "Vertigo" and spill off from there.  "Somnium" is another strong example of the band's ability to build an epic soundscape from a slow, tritonal riff and do so within a traditional doom framework that is both respectful to its origins and unique unto itself.  Towards the end of the latter song a haunting banshee wail from vocalist Ben Peters signals the band to finally cut loose and up the tempo.  It must feel great to do so, considering the band's pedigree.

I've no doubt Zodiac will end up on the radar of many and receive tons more press, and if they already are on your radar, give Naga a try, I'm sure you'll like it, and vice versa.  While Naga adds handfuls of filth to their sound, both bands are coming from very much the same place, the pond of primordial slime from which all doom bands have arisen.  The monumental tritone riff, which each of these two powerful bands put their own unique spin on to.  You can listen and download each of these great releases on the players below.

Genre: Sludge, Doom

Naga is:                                                                    Zodiac is:
Emanuele Schember - bass, effects                             Mikel Elborne - bass
Dario Graziano – drums                                              Will Learmonth - Drums
Lorenzo De Stefano - guitar, vocals                             Leo Price – guitar
                                                                                 Ryan Cooper – guitar
                                                                                 Ben Peters - vocals

Better Review:
Sludgelord on Naga
Too Late to Pray on Naga
Astral Doom on Zodiac

Naga facebook
Zodiac facebook


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