Album Review: Zu – Carboniferous

February 17, 2009

John Coal-train...haaaa...

Concept: The Rome, Italy trio take a stab at the Rite of Spring in their tenth (?) studio LP.

Sound: Typically very loose and unusual, the band has produced a much fuller and more structured album, with a strong rhythmic focus. That’s not to say any of it is radio material. Although there are episodes of gargling breakdowns, it is more accessible than any of their previous work, and perhaps more accessible than many bands associated with them: The Melvins, Mastodon, and Fantomas, for example. Between a bass (with occassional percussive, whammy-esque effects), a simple drum kit, and a wild baritone sax, the album combines hardcore with math rock and free jazz, providing variations on a sweltering and crumbling atmosphere, like a paralyzed rhinocerous being stripped alive by vultures. Although it’s offbeat and noisy, it’s never overwhelming, and to be honest it blows most gnarly metal bands out of the water. There are even smooth and soothing moments in between the guttural didgeridooish sax torrents and growling bass. It’s thick, gamey, and rich…a charcoal-grilled sirloin of experimental rock with a side of kidneys.

Lyrics: As might be expected, this is the weak point. There is nothing above Tool-caliber lyricism here. This album might be too far on the other side of the spectrum to throw out poppy ideas like “love/my kryptonite“. Luckily, there are few words on the album, and the vocals themselves are amazingly versatile: alternately beautiful or thrillingly bizarre. Again, as with Tool, this is enough of a distraction to keep the album entertaining.

Quick And Dirty: Hot, shuddering, and unpredictable, building off the Painkiller formula with the listener in mind this time. For what it’s worth, there is no other band quite like Zu. (♦♦♦♦½)


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