By: Daniel Jackson
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 02/10/2015
Label: Sea of Corruption Records
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that ‘Serpentine Halo’ is easily the band’s most accomplished work to this point. If forced to give an easy reference point, I’d say that this is a blend of ‘Whisper Supremacy’-era Cryptopsy along with very early Mastodon and a dash of Gorguts at their most disjointed and jarring. If that sounds as appealing for you as it does me, you should be in good hands with this album.
‘Serpentine Halo’ CD//DD track listing:
1. Therefore I Am
2. Something Done Cannot be Undone
3. Made Flesh And Bone
5. Not All Of Me Shall Die
6. Man Son Of Swine
7. One Thousand Stones Thrown
8. He Who Knows All
Roddy Anderson | Guitar, Vocals
Rob Coverdale | Guitars, Bass
Matt Holland | Drums
Being that I’m a newcomer to Zillah, and having only briefly acquainted myself with their previous work to get a sense of what led to this album, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that ‘Serpentine Halo’ is easily the band’s most accomplished work to this point. If forced to give an easy reference point, I’d say that this is a blend of ‘Whisper Supremacy’-era Cryptopsy along with very early Mastodon and a dash of Gorguts at their most disjointed and jarring. If that sounds as appealing for you as it does me, you should be in good hands with this album. Where Zillah’s previous album, ‘Substitute for a Catastrophe’ seemed content to revel more in chaos than order, ‘Serpentine Halo’ sees the band reign some of those noisier, free-form tendencies in a tad and replace it with focus and a more skilful ear for building to big moments.
As with most albums, how you’ll feel about this album as a listener is going to depend largely on how you feel about the various elements that make up its sound. To break things down in a bit more detail, you have the more or less Mastodon-ish tendencies of some of the less heavy sections of the album. The first thirty second of “Something Done Cannot Be Undone” is a solid example of that tendency, inclining more towards the crawling, dissonant, plucked chords of pre- ‘Remission’ Mastodon than anything more recent. Drummer Matt Holland opts for a less flashy beat underneath the guitars, which might actually be a better fit for this style as Brann Dailor has had a tendency to overwhelm these kinds of sections with relentless drum fills. Once the build-up of that first half-minute hits a crescendo, Zillah plays things off with a disjointed and glitchy climax. The guitars alternately rumble and screech, and the drums thunder and rattle like two fighters in a gym hitting a heavy bag and a speed bag in sync with each other.
That same theme is used to equally powerful effect in songs like “Karras” and “Not All of Me Shall Die”, though “Karras” also pairs that dissonant guitar plucking by using deep, droning rhythm guitar to give that riff more weight in each song. They both also make use of vicious, cyclical tech death riffing, which is another Zillah specialty. “Karras” also feels like the song where Roddy Anderson’s vocals are best served. His throaty, borderline hardcore vocal delivery is reminiscent of former Cryptopsy vocalist Mike DiSalvo, and he excels most when his vocals are laid atop sections that are a bit more straightforward rhythmically.
While I’ve pointed to a number of other bands in this review for reference, it should be stated that Zillah turns the mixture of those elements into something unique enough to thoroughly avoid accusations of clonism or failing to find their own footing. They take elements that sound over-worn to hear them and find new ways to implement them. This is a strong showing to be sure, and while the descriptor of sludge-loving tech death would normally throw up red flags for me as a rule, it’s an accurate description for a band that succeeds for me in spite of that.
You can pick up a CD & Digital copy here.
FFO: Crytopsy, Mastodon, Gorguts