Zhora
Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Insane, experimental sludge is the preferred poison of infernal Irish lunatics Zhora on their second full-length album, Ethos, Pathos, Logos.  This record is very much in the key of Rwake’s landmark work from Hell is a Door to the Sun through Rest, Deadbird’s The Head and the Heart, Spaceboy’s underrated discography and Neurosis’ classics Enemy of the Sun and Through Silver in Blood.  Along the way there are wild prog-thrash deviations that are straight out of Voivod’s golden era, cold black metal speed bursts, chaotic grind breaks and even some soaring, psychedelic guitar work that fans of David Gilmour will probably appreciate.  The quartet’s sound is constantly shape-shifting, thick and threatening with numerous melodic elements bubbling to the surface that far removes Zhora from the more “radio-friendly” crop of artists that try to expand the sludge genre far beyond its origins.

“The Stone” sets the record off with a crisp, desert dry percussive boil that calls to mind the tribally polyrhythmic bashing of vintage Neurosis.  Offbeat symphonic elements enter in the form of spacey cosmic noise drones and a gorgeous neoclassical piano arrangement.  Soon bassist Richie McCormack supports the low n’ slow forward charge by employing a doom-drenched dirge crawl; the churning, simultaneously melodic and off-putting atmosphere given further life and vivid coloring by multi-tracked, cleanly sung vocals.  It’s a deliberate, well-measured climb that ensures each musical step is certain of its precarious footing before resuming the journey upward.  Midway through the floodgates open and unleash a planet wiping rush of distorted, tidal sludge riff terror that’s aided in its mission of total destruction by monstrous plodding beats, throbbing quite catchy grooves and an orchestra of screams, shouts, death-y growls and crusty punk laments.

Choppy, discordant thrash manifests itself into chugging hardcore sludge with a staccato 16 bent on the loose during the twitchy schizophrenia of “Riverchrist.”  Futuristic keyboard decay envelopes the heady mayhem as the sharp, angular tempo changes whip sludge grooves into off-time swerves steeped in progressive stops/starts and complimented by brutish drumming that ranges from rapid fire fills to murderous double-bass/blast shakedowns.  A squealing break of shrill, surgical guitar noise goes into a frenetic minor key note shred reminiscent of Piggy’s ear-bleeding, high-frequency quartal weirdness.  Sickening vocals pull out every aggressive stop along the way while the music switches personas on a dime from doom to ugly noise/hardcore to prog-insanity to blackened, grinding bile.  Even the late game segment of psychedelic clean instrumentation recalls some of the pretty textures on Voivod’s The Outer Limits, though this brief peaceful respite is eventually sanded down into a pile of sludgy, thrashed-out dust.  Pancho O’Meara and Colin Bolger’s dual guitar onslaught is a highlight throughout and I’m not sure who winds this track out with a soothing, trippy Gilmour-esque lead but they absolutely nail the Pink Floyd vibe while never straying too far outside of their own ultra-heavy style.

Acerbic sirens of beeping and whirring noise fumigation cut through the treacle-tough doom-y, hardcore smacked prog-thrash riffs of “Sin Eater’s” jagged and jaw-cracking introduction of urgency.  Gravelly mid-range shouts drip n’ seethe in tremors of crust punk aftershock as the anxiety overloaded polyrhythms and nail-biting guitar bursts erupt into molten grooves.  The fierce energy oozing from every pore of this beast is evident, even if it feels as if the monster’s internal life support systems can barely sustain the fuckin’ thing with enough nutrients to keep on its feet.  At any moment it feels like this tune could go supernova and get sucked into a black hole vortex never to be seen again.  Screaming guitar solos open the 7th Seal, thusly letting in demonic blast beats, permafrost splitting sludge riffing (played much faster than normal) and a freaky outro lead that’s overflowing with bleak atmosphere.  “The Breach” is peppered with hazy 70s lead guitar in its early going, the skyward intensity of the lead licks fighting to avoid suffocation from feral n’ sludgy rhythm riffing and growling bass lines that are so fuckin’ thick you couldn’t cut ‘em with a chainsaw.  A constant percussive presence slowly rises from a tarry doom swing to a formidable wall of fiendish fills and godless double-kick beatings; every single strike rattling each individual rib in your chest.  Layered, alien abducted melodic vocals uncoil themselves over a furiously warping flux of different tempos (from molasses-ridden sludge/doom to Pompeii scale blow-outs of progressive fury).  The tune’s midsection and beyond are straight out of the glorybound psyche madness of “Jack Luminous” or even Floyd’s grand soundscapes and heralded Gilmour leads/solos circa Animals.  It’s an unusual series of events from point A to the endpoint of this track for damn fuckin’ certain but when you take the whole thing in piece by piece it all makes universal sense.

A hypnotic, autumnal guitar melody punctuates “Jettatura’s” rolling, arid opening with a jazzy playfulness present in every instrument, especially those ghosting cymbals and billowing, effortless tom rolls.  The immaculate clean vocals and the superb production on ‘em (some light FX added and double-tracking) lends this ascending Blue Öyster Cult aura to the proceedings but things descend into a mountainside crumble of deadly, devious riffing full of noise squalls, sludgy grooves, smooth harmonic counterpoints and violent left turns that pay no mind to one singular genre or mood.  Tom Woodlock’s hyperactive drumming sees him throwing his entire body into the performance with another kitchen sink chucking attack encompassing straight 4/4, over the top snare/tom fills and transitions, lightning fast blasts and propulsive footwork.  Some of the most creative guitar work on the record is found right here and the solos are nothing short of the most atonal, acerbic, spine-severing nastiness this album has to offer.  There’s a lot of melody at play whenever it fits but these maniacs know when to just let the pain and heaviness overtake everything on their quest to obliterate every human eardrum in their path.  All throughout the vocals prove to be as easily unpredictable as the music.

“Infernal Liturgy” is a shorter, more immediate composition but don’t mistake that for meaning “filler.”  If you called this track filler, it would probably hold a knife to your neck in contempt.  Ominous, cascading clean guitars intersect soul-swallowing doom degradation, the lightest rays of post-rock shimmer seeping between gray, foreboding storm clouds.  Dual vocals ram scraggly, lung-scraping screams into concrete tough growls/roars while the taut ever-flowing tom drum abuse becomes stuck in an infinite continuum of pulverizing perpetual motion.  Norwegian kissed darkness baptizes this motherfucker via an eternal flame of tremolo blizzard and bulrush blasting.  Elsewhere the band mangles, dissects, dismembers and reassembles several extreme genres with a focus on aggression across the sonically diabolical prog-doom divebomb of “Turmoil,” “Server, Seer, Soothsayer” a nightmarish mix of Nothingface-esque complexity meets churning sludge heft meets bloody raw black metal meets a labyrinth of melodic death metal guitar pyrotechnics while “Tabula Rasa” further enforces the sheer neurotic snap of the band’s songwriting, whereas the meditative, oblique psyche/doom duo of “Rubic(on) the Styx” and “Earth’d” are placed on the far opposite end of the melodic spectrum.

Zhora definitely knows what they’re doing throughout Ethos, Pathos, Logos’ eleven exploratory and experimental tracks.  Those that enjoy a progressive bite to their REALLY heavy stuff but find Mastodon or Baroness a bit too tame should have a field day with this band.  Melody and harmony are crammed into every inch of this record, yet there’s an edge present that’s tempered with nothing less than sheer overpowering ferocity and hatred.  This record is in a realm all its own and should appeal to a larger audience than just the meat n’ potatoes sludge/doom cult.  Ethos, Pathos, Logos is unhinged, untamed and a fuckin’ great pick for followers of the aforementioned artists and other like-minded nutcases such as Rune, End of Level Boss, Ether and Family.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
May 17th, 2018

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