I don’t know what it is about Hydra Head and side projects, but they are currently better than members’ full time bands. Not sure whether Zozobra is strictly a side project though: half of them made their names in the sadly dormant Cave In, so this could be a full time job while Steve Brodsky thinks of more aliases. Meanwhile Aaron Harris joins boss of the label, and of Old Man Gloom, Aaron Turner on the list of Isis Members Moonlighting in Bands Better than Isis.
While Isis makes like Sigur Rós, and delivers recent albums of wallpaper, both OMG(!) and Zozobra (both bands named for an effigy ritually burned in Santa Fe) forsake the current trend of post-metal bullet belt-gazing and decide to actually rock. In fact, their combination of roaring vocals and a massive, fuzz-tinged guitar recalls the late, great Nottingham band earthtone9, albeit without their melodic asides. The riffs are flattening in a Greenmachine/Boris-at-their-most-aggressive fashion.
‘Heartless Enemy’ is where the mood changes. The band seems to realise at the right time that this bludgeon riffola will only go so far. A hulking riff plays second fiddle to cautiously rising melody in a combination that recalls The Hope Conspiracy’s excellent ‘Stolen Days’. The ominously shimmering/shuddering ‘Big Needles’ provides interval time before ‘Sharks That Circle’ brings the violence back. If this is Caleb Scofield on vocals, he is impressively pitched between Turner and Sean Ingram.
The best, as is so often the case in metal, concludes the album. With the three-minute detonations out of the way, emerging from the smoke is a semi-epic juggernaut, steamrolling anything High On Fire have done in years: ‘Laser Eyes’. Beginning suitably slowly, the controlled mayhem then erupts two minutes in and manages to both mesmerise and energise for the duration.
Were there more in the way of such changes within songs, this might challenge Until Your Heart Stops or Christmas. It lacks the inventiveness or personality of an Iron Monkey or His Hero Is Gone, but if those names mean anything to you, do listen to this refreshing album. If they don’t, remedy that omission.