Friday, 6 June 2014

Zaum – Oracles (2014) / 87%

Om, Yob, Zom, Zaum!
The heavy duo from the Maritimes managed to sign with the excellent label Swedish I Hate to release their debut album called Oracles. Composed of two seasoned musicians from the New Brunswick scene, Chris Lewis (singer of stoners Iron Giant) handles the drums here and Kyle McDonald (frontman of Shevil) plays the bass and sings. You can already see the similarity with the post Sleep band Om as both are slow paced doom duos and they diverge from the usual thematics found in doom and stoner metal. There's not a lot of projects influenced by Al Cisneros and company so it feels good to finally get one and fortunately the Canadians are more than worthy. One could denigrate them and say they're perhaps too much of a copy and while there's many overt similarities between the two, Zaum manages to impress and includes a fair share of originality. But it's still pretty safe to say that if you don't like Om, you should probably avoid this.

Even if it's a debut album, everything the band wanted to create and develop is already well in place. Compared to Om, it's heavier, more intricate and perhaps even better! Simply by looking at the perfect cover art, you can already feel the vibe they'll explore throughout the four songs/fifty minutes release. As an ancient city located in the desert awaits the visit of a camel caravan, you can smell the sand and the dryness of the dunes. The ethnic & Arabic elements of their music doesn't feel forced at all even though the two dudes are huge bearded white men. I've met the two very nice dudes at their first gig in Montréal (with Dopethrone, review here: click me) but it would had been easy to mistake them for true middle eastern musicians since it sounds almost as honest as Melechesh and Orphaned Land combined. Chris and Kyle are possibly two Vikings who accidentally met an Arabic community while raiding the Mediterranean sea! The lyrical themes are also deeply related to the ancient history of the Middle East as it was surrounded by blood and religious feuds, appropriate themes for an intellectual doom record

The ethnic influence isn't simply a block that they awkwardly put on their finished construction. It's an intrinsic part of the puzzle as it's part of every song. It can serve as an introduction built into a nice crescendo like in the longest and final track “Omen”. It's entrancing and serves as one of the main ingredients in their river flowing songs. Their sound has a pretty solid direction, ranging from ultra slow to mid paced (the “short” song “Peasant of Parthia”) but it's always intriguing and interesting. Just like in Shevil (three bass attack!), it's heavy as fuck with a huge bass presence and it features the vocal talent of McDonald who's pretty damn interesting. There's some shamanic chanting (“The Red Sea”) but he's pretty diverse, ranging from semi harsh and buried vocals to clean cult Om-like singing, I think he's my favourite element in their formula, his tone works pretty damn well with the music. His presence gives a larger than life & crushing aura to the project

It sure is repetitive but it's to be expected with a doom album with drawn out songs like this one, it's not something that bothered me though since it's well crafted and the musicality is nuanced underneath a huge layer of ethnosynthesizers that adds another world of intricacy to the compositions. You're never bored during this voyage and you get the right amount of middle eastern doom musicality for your money. Overall, Oracles is a great debut from Zaum, if they can truly put a larger distance between themselves and Om, we'll have a massive juggernaut to follow. Another great catch for I Hate.

No comments: