Reviewed: July, 2018
Released: 2018, Doomentia Records
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Early on, it seemed like Mexico’s Zombiefication were going to go down as just another Entombed-alike band with a Swe-death fetish, like so, so many others. Their first two albums – Midnight Stench and At The Caves Eternal – were abuzz with the d-beat and HM-2 pedal-powered rabble that sounded a hell of a lot more like early ‘90s Gothenburg than central Mexico 15 years later.
But the core duo of Mr. Hitchcock on vocals and Mr. Jacko on guitars and bass began wisely moving beyond that with 2014’s Procession Through Infestation. The album introduced more black metal and doom elements and elaborate arrangements that were not quite so derivative – although the band are probably destined to always recall Entombed to some degree given that Mr. Hitchcock’s voice and delivery can be a dead ringer for L.G. Petrov’s.
Below The Grief, though, really throws down the black metal gauntlet and leaves much of the Swe-death trappings behind. The album’s grand, sprawling, though still quite ragged sound has an almost “Cascadian” – or at least Pacific Northwest – feel to it, a la Wolves In The Throne Room or Ash Borer. The songs all have an epic quality about them – especially “Heavy Is The Crown” and “From Death To Its Son,” which top the seven and eight-minute marks respectively – and seem constructed around movements and mood as opposed of more conventional structure. Don’t look for any money-shot choruses here – unless you count the mantra-like chanting on “Hunger Undying.”
And while that might not provide the more instant gratification of the band’s older work, it’s more absorbing and rewarding overall. What catchiness there is here comes from the fleeting hooky parts and sweeping tremolos – as on “Sky Burial” – woven into a shape-shifting tumult. The cascade of riffs and jog-and-blast tempos that power much of the album provide plenty of angles and curves, but these guys navigate them with enough finesse to keep things from careening out of control or growing to ponderous.
The clangorous production gives Below The Grief something of a post-metal sound that doesn’t leave a whole of room for atmosphere, which actually isn’t such a bad thing. Instead dragging things out in true – and sometimes tiresome – Cascadian fashion, Zombiefaction are content to revel in their noise, yet rarely outstay their welcome.
That they have attempted such a dramatic sonic transition speaks to the cojones of Misters Jacko and Hitchcock. And the fact that they’ve been able to pull it off with something this worthwhile should lay the groundwork for a more fulfilling future than would ever be possible by continuing to ape Entombed or Dismember.