Released: 2013, Invictus Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Irish Death Metal trio ZOM, known for their exceptional use of vocal reverb, have re-released their 2011 effort "Demo MMXI" on vinyl, complete with a brand new bonus track. The band describe themselves as primitive and brutal, straddling the line between early death metal of the 1980s and the more evolved form of the early 1990s. To my mind this brings the frenetic and chaotic aggression of the thrash explosion gone extreme, the move starting with albums like "Reign in Blood" and "Pleasure to Kill" towards a more violently brutal style of music. It's an interesting area to explore for a modern extreme outfit, something which the band themselves call an "exhumation of hallowed death metal's origins". Can this style work in 2013?
'The Horror From Beyond' lives up to its name in the early going. Demonic lamenting voices echo for a full minute before the music starts. The sound is very reminiscent of POSSESSED and EXHUMER, living up to the promised return to the early death metal style. Production wise this certainly isn't crisp, but it has that feel of a classic '80s demo. The vocals are almost impossible to make out, a clanging echo of syllables almost melding with the music, the whole thing is an assault of sound. The guitar work is good but the drums remind me of BULLDOZER; they have a sort of tin pot feel to them. Not a first impression that will knock you off your feet, but definitely fitting the whole primitive and brutal vibe the band has going on.
'Cult of the Black Flame' starts off much as the previous track did, with creepy spoken lines and a horror-film scream. When the music starts it again picks up where the opener left off. Everything combines into one full on force. The lyrics aren't distinct from instrumentation at all, and those drums are still very prominent. The vocals become a little more noticeable towards the end but they still sound like nothing more than guttural growls rather than actual words. There's only a brief pause, a return into the horror movie sampling before 'The Chaos Dimension' begins. This one has a bit of the early Slayer vibe about it, fast and forceful, with a fair few cymbal clutches. That being said, it's all still a bit garbled, a blurt of noise without inspiring too much enjoyment.
'The opening of 'The Power of Sin' harks back to the song 'Black Sabbath' before returning to the ZOM style. There are some jarring guitar notes early on and then things get back to what the listener will by now already be used to; echoing lyrics against quick music. By the time 'Cosmic Winds' rolls around it's clear that what you are essentially listening to is the same formula on repeat. Tolling bolls, distorted spoken words, possibly a black sermon, and then fast-paced music with cavernous vocals that you just cannot for the life of you understand. That is of course until the last two minutes of this one, in which the same closing notes are repeated ad nauseam.
It's up to the final track, the bonus track for the vinyl re-release, to hopefully demonstrate progress in terms of songwriting and production. Well, 'Ethereal Frost' doesn't open with some kind of horror movie sound bite, and actually everything is lot more audible here. The guitar is clearer, and the vocals are distinctly prominent. To my surprise, this is actually a fairly well produced piece of work, compared to the rest of the demo that is. This is the best song on the album, a hint towards perhaps better things to come, but for my money it's too little too late.
If you buy this record then you're paying for five indistinguishable songs and one good bonus track. This may have the production quality of the early demos of the death metal movement but it doesn't have any of the passion or prowess. I have been fortunate enough to hear some exceptional death metal in the past year, and this I'm afraid is not a nostalgic return to the sound of old. In light of what I'm hearing in contemporary death metal, for me, this record represents a step back.
Review by Michael Dodd