Zombiefication – Below the Grief (2018) REVIEW

You’d almost -have- to be a little reductive to keep up with the world’s extreme metal output but the not so distant history of Zombiefication shows a strong vision too often reduced by critics using the easiest allusions to their inspiration. Whereas so many bands use cheap refurbished guitar pedals from the 90’s to create a Swedish death metal sound, Zombiefication inherently understand the inner workings of the musical style. Sounding like a rebirth of Nirvana 2002 and God Macabre spliced back in 2010 this Querétaro, Mexico based death metal project conceive and co-create as a duo of Mr. Hitchcock (Hateborn, ex-Rapture) and Mr. Jacko (Majestic Downfall, Ticket to Hell). Having paid due homage to the titans of Swedish death metal on ‘Midnight Stench’ (2010) and ‘At the Caves of Eternal’ (2013) the duo began to shift restlessly in the confines of traditional death metal thereafter, perhaps unwittingly recreating the history of their forbears.

Where did Swedish death metal go after 1994? The explosion was like a nailbomb at a balloon factory as sub-genre mutants and monetized aspirations formed institution and legacy alike. Some kept it true… others hopped trends and vaulted into different genre altogether. You can tell Zombiefication have equal love for metal’s history as well as death metal’s present course of action; This began to show well before ‘Procession Through Infestation’ (2014), an album palpably forward-thinking but careful not to leap too far from their Sunlight Studios-esque beginnings, and it is in full force on their latest record ‘Below the Grief’. I would liken this shift in tone as similar to the thrashing surprise of Entombed‘s ‘Mourning Star’ yet Zombiefication have taken almost a full four years to stretch their wings beyond expectations into something entirely new.

Taking the gorgeous blackened psychedelia oozing from groups like Reveal, Stench, and Venenum and utilizing it as pause between blackened death/thrash reeks of a greater putrefaction, one step beyond the 70’s candor of Tribulation‘s ‘The Formulas of Death’. Painfully barked and always building momentum Zombiefication are unchanged at the heart of their appeal despite the noise-rock shouts and rambling blackened riff fest set newly alight. What shines through best is their taste in songwriting; Not simply pleased with a ‘hook’ or a mushy soup of blurred blackened death movements, their riffs snake together with intention and ebb between tides of thrashing black metal and death metal’s punctuation.

‘Below the Grief’ is a byproduct of primordial ooze stirred to land through sea-foam’s greenish vector, it is a foul smelling rot teeming with life’s conception concentrated. The moldy 90’s psychedelia of “Heavy is the Crown” provides a great stretching yawn of anxiety as it wrestles and pins down new identity in bold form. There is a perilous je ne sais quoi that comes creeping in as Zombiefication begin to exercise and flap new wings most of their new sound works. None of their new style is a stretch apart from the fairly monotone vocal shouts that drive most of the record, it is a great performance that needed more variation along the lines of “Hunger Undying”. The harmonized chants at the start of the track go a long way to gild an already solid composition and I think of they really leaned into some of those creative ideas they’d aggress beyond the verge of combining old school artistry with their own entirely unique niche.

The bold and artful shifting of sands taking place on ‘Below the Grief’ deserves some greater measure of hype and praise; Not only for subverting expectations but for taking chances across a 45 minute album that most old school death metal bands wouldn’t. Beyond that the underlying groove of the record still holds the potent DNA of ancient Swedish death metal without emulating structures or sound. You can decide for yourself if they’re bucking, starting or following a trend but I found those grooves and riffs undeniably heavy. From the hardcore thrashing ‘Blood Falls’ to the meandering, blackened axe-swing of “Deliverance From the Astral Sea” I guarantee you’ll immediately be intrigued as to what comes next… but I won’t necessarily suggest it is all golden.

Despite any small irritation I found myself coming back to ‘Below the Grief’ repeatedly across the space of about three weeks. At first it was covetous lust for the album art and the thrashing riffs of the first half and the noisy shouts of despair carrying the experience, but as it grew on me I spun the album for it’s dramatic arc that goes from ground zero, up to outer space and then sits floating dead in the air with the closer “Sky Burial”. It is a trip in every sense but not an outrageous one, rather an astral projection of escapism and cathartic rupture that quite nearly left me hanging as it ended. Anyway, I think this will be a welcome surprise for old Zombiefication fans and a huge leap somewhere new, even for those well ingratiated with ‘Procession Through Infestation’.

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Artist Zombiefication
Type Album
Released July 15, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Doomentia Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Zombiefication on Facebook
Genres
Thrash Metal,
Black Metal,
Death Metal

Bitter inward strides against distress. 4.0/5.0

 

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