Zaum
Eidolon

Eidolon is the third overall release from New Brunswick doom bruisers Zaum and it’s certainly something different.  I must sadly declare ignorance of the debut full-length Oracles and the split with Shooting Guns, so I come into this review with negative brain cells in terms of their past work.  Opting for the increasingly popular duo configuration (though there’s a shitload of guest players) the music on Eidolon took me by complete surprise.  Hell, even the basic instrumental setup of the main band is hardly traditional; Kyle Alexander McDonald handles bass, sitars, synths and vocals while Christopher Lewis solely mans the drums.  If OM is Eastern then Zaum is Far East.  Mix the progressive combination of royal riffs, keyboard hymnals and crushing gothic gloom of Morgion from Among Majestic Ruin onward to Solinari with the plunging bass-y riff damage and Holy Mountain Sinai folktale oddities of OM, add some of the epic sweep and dirty esoteric doom cast down by Asunder and Samothrace then finally allow the results to drown beneath the nautical undertow stirred up in Ahab’s wake…  Fans of Skepticism, Esoteric, Cathedral (Forest of Equilibrium period) and even Neurosis should probably sign their souls in the register as well.

This type of funeral parlor doom can go one of two ways; either it’s more insufferable than the first breaking of the bowels after 6 weeks of constipation or it really gets under your skin like the aforementioned bands did mine.  Thankfully, Eidolon’s two 20 minute whoppers are consistently engaging with zero time wasted on tedium.  Oh yeah…I should probably mention that even though I dropped some points of reference for guidance, these guys are very much on their own program.

“Influence of the Magi” is the soundtrack to ancient Rome collapsing and subsequently falling through the Earth to land atop Atlantis, thusly making that watery fucker sink too.  I mean, Christ, the song builds up with two types of flutes (bass and concert both played by Ricky Frenette), creepy throat singing, world ending synth drones, singing saws, smoldering low-end embers, cello…I mean, fuckin’ everything!  I feel like I’m on mescaline in the middle of the Great Plains waiting for an impending herd of buffalo to run me down.  Impatient listeners will be killed off long before the song truly even starts, but the sheer depth and haunting foreshadow of the pitch black atmospherics had me curious to see what was going to happen next.  The fuzz-blasted bass lines are sturdy, picking up a nice head of steam n’ smoke as well as adopting some driving patterns to boot…in some instances they will forcefully lurch and dip like OM’s most rock-heavy stuff and during other moments McDonald rains down hopeless ethereal sludge from the heavens that’s beaten into place by Kraken killing beats.  Texture is important here as the keys often double the bass lines as well as simultaneously shading in everything around them.  Vocally, the leads are echoing, mirror-reflected musings strangled, choked and smothered with enough depression to lay your back flat on the therapist’s couch.  Kyle’s singing is melodic enough to keep you hooked without getting too wind in the hair, so the smell of Swiss stays firmly in your lunchmeat drawer and doesn’t seep into your stereo speakers.  Eventually ill-tempered, bellowing vocals provided by none other than Mattias Nööjd (he of underrated Swedish thrash/sludge titans Galvano…they’re worth a look, trust me!) lends a scathing curmudgeon to the ever-increasing dread.  It’s a nice touch that gives the song an Enemy of the Sun eclipse before fading off into glistening negative space.

Second and final track “The Enlightenment” brings to mind an old Kung Fu, chopsockey movie’s one scene of downtime where we are often taken to see a temple in a gorgeous clearing. Frenette again offers his flute skills on loan, bringing the Xian flute to the table during the lengthy intro.  The beauty fades away thanks to Lewis’ pulverizing, stick cracking drum devastation; locked in a death rattle battle with murderous yet melody intensive bass plods and church organ preachings.  Tranquil sections appear when the heaviness dissipates, though when said heaviness returns its impact is felt tenfold.  Alexander’s voice quivers in waves of breathy softness and gruffer, angrier tangents for a varied approach that fits the music like a fatal bowtie.  Trippy OM/Sleep blues tough enough to buckle the Green Giant at the knees phases in at the 10:30 mark and totally hits my sweet spot.  What gives it a totally unique vibe is the general sounds and emanations of the instruments…filter the two bands I just namedropped through Morgion’s thudding heft/soaring keys and you’ll be close but might not be smoking a cigar…though the next round of singing is so much like Cisneros it hurts (in a good way).  Later on Kyle provides some piston-pressed, pissed-off vocals of his own to compliment the shifting of the musical backdrop into a festering, abyssal depth-charge equal parts an ocean of aural vastness as well as a straight-forward tribute to the formative 70s/early 90s Devil’s riff worship.

Zaum leaves nothing to chance on Eidolon and meshes all of their disparate elements together seamlessly.  It’s no easy feat to reach for such lofty doom ambitions whilst avoiding a tumble into a vat of cheese.  These guys can blacken the stars they’re shooting for with an expert marksman’s aim and the two tunes here offer plenty to come back to…and never once did I get bored across their sprawling trajectories.  I’ll be sure to give Oracles a listen thanks to the strength of the material on Eidolon…something tells me I missed out on some damn good music. 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
November 3rd, 2016

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