If you’d asked me to name ten pure death metal bands from mainland Australia off the top of my head I’d start to choke around the eighth or so, not because I’ve grown complacent in my knack for trivia but for the sake of how often the country spawns and exports experimental voices that pull away from established norms. Ah, make that nine, Psychrist were fuckin’ deadly… Anyhow, the brutal spectrum of Australian death metal has been in good health for decades and the average output is typically thoughtful as hell so it comes as no surprise that a band as unique in concept and execution as Adelaide based Tzun Tzu may not ring a bell for the average death metal head. ‘The Forbidden City’ arrives as more or less a teaser and a formal introduction to the current high bar the band are setting in development of their second full-length beyond their self-titled 2012 debut.
The brand new track here, unless I’ve missed something brutally obvious, is “The Forbidden City” itself — A punch-heavy blast of everything that has made this band something else since 2003. Insane battery, technical-but-approachable complexity, and a much lighter use of synth guitar tones to adorn their brutality with Japanese influenced leitmotif. The rhythm section are murderous on this new track and I don’t think Adam Ritchie‘s bass has ever sounded exactly this present and ruthless in the mix. Definitely getting the appropriate StarGazer vibes from the new song, especially as it segues into the descent of the second half.
Since I’d missed the several EPs beyond ‘Tzun Tzu’ I’d no idea Alan Cadman (Sarsekim, ex-Altars) had been in this band since 2013 and my ignorance likewise included not recognizing the last two thirds of ‘The Forbidden City’ included new versions of songs from the band’s past. The first being from an old EP (‘Kunoichi‘, 2008) and “Ko’Muso” from a split with Altars in 2009. Each song has been updated and I’d say the major highlight is “Kunoichi” as it brings a very direct example of the ‘elevated’ New York death metal influenced style of the band as they incorporate a synthesized biwa (or similar traditional Japanese stringed instrument) into the second half of the song, elaborating the melody with the full band as it develops. This is a strong showing of Tzun Tzu‘s greater points of differentiation beyond the average moderately progressive brutal death metal act and shit, they still hit really hard.
Since the band’s whole discography is on Bandcamp it was a real gift to get to directly compare the old versions of the reworked songs with the new versions and get a deeper look at how Tzun Tzu have developed their attack and technical aptitude across the last decade or so. The title track ends up being the real energizer here and what’d really geared me up for what the band have coming in the future. Highly recommended.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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