Cult Series Day 1: Zatokrev sludge away but pour too many ideas into ‘The Bat’

zatokrev

For all the millions of bands out there now trying to ply their trade at metal, or whatever genre they’re trying to impact, there are just too many that stay a particular course and don’t deviate from expectations. I end up labeling most of those bands as boring. Then there are those who push things and try to experiment, and while it doesn’t always work in their favor, I tend to have a little more compassion for those bands because at least they’re not trying to stay confined to a box.

I thought about that when tackling the third album from Swiss post-metal beasts Zatokrev. Just looking at the title of the opus — “The Bat, the Wheel and the Long Road to Nowhere” — is enough to make you wonder what it’s all about, and then there’s their music, that falls somewhere around the lands dominated by Cult of Luna, The Ocean, and ISIS. Sure, there are a lot of bands doing that very thing, but these guys seem to have a knack for the sound and pull it off quite capably.

CANDLE364CD_BOOKLET.inddThis record, by the way, is another in Candlelight’s ongoing “cult series,” where they put a spotlight on bands that have been doing things on the underground, perhaps haven’t gotten the right exposure before, and have some interesting aspects to their music. The three bands in this new series all are quite different from each other (we’ll bring you the other two records next week), which makes this one of the more intriguing installments of the series to date.

Zatokrev do fall into some traps, however, when it comes to knowing when to say when. The band — guitarist/vocalist Frederyk Rotter, guitarist Julien Duseyau, bassist/backing vocalist Lucas Low, drummer Frederic Hug — has a knack for noodling. And noodling and noodling. An editor is really what they need to take their game to the next level, and they have all the tools to do so. But at 76 minutes and nine songs, it gets to be a little much. Don’t get me wrong. They’re really good players, and never is the record irritating, which musicians with a tendency to drone tend to be. They have good ideas, and they execute them OK, they just don’t know when to put a cap on things. It’s the biggest complaint I have about this record that really could have been a stand-out release if it was about 25 minutes shorter.

“Goddam Lights” opens the record, and at 9:23, it sticks around for a while. There’s a good bit of sludge and post-metal wandering going on, and the vocals are screamy and abrasive as they convey a sense of independence away from a source of pain. “9” perhaps is named that because it’s nearly that many minutes long, as it’s one that would work far better at half that time. It’s a sludgy cut that meanders a little too much, and some of the instrumental sections where not a heck of a lot is going on could stand to melt away a bit. “Rodeo With Snakes” is the shortest song on the whole set, and it has an American rock feel, along with barked vocals and a grimy finish. It’s then onto “Medium,” a song that’s nearly 11 minutes long and has a decent amount of melody and some muddy, mangled thrashing. But there’s also an attempt to set an ambient atmosphere that never really takes and feels more like walking in place.

“The Wheel” recovers and goes in more of a mid-tempo pace, and while it pushes 10 minutes, it manages to stay pretty interesting over the duration of its running time. The dual “Feel the Fire” cuts, combined, last more than 12 minutes, but to the band’s credit they manage to make each half fresh. The first part again examines more rock and roll-style terrain, while the second part is more muscle-bound and rough, with some adventurous riffing. The final two cuts on the album – “The Bat” and “Angels of Cross” – take up 20 minutes combined, and what’s become a theme, they’d both be far better chopped in half. “The Bat” has some lurching sludge that sounds pretty good, but it just goes on too long, while “Angels” has some promising ideas and real moments of inspiration, but it just feels like it’s never going to end and doesn’t have a terribly inspired finish. It isn’t bad; it just doesn’t inspire much emotion.

I happen to be a listener who likes and has patience for really long songs, and many of my favorite records of the past couple years have been chock full of epics. But sometimes there’s no justification for tracks to be as long as they are, a trap in which Zatokrev fall too often. There’s promise here, they can play, they have some good ideas, they just need someone to help edit them. A good producer could do wonders for this band, who might be a great album away from opening a lot of eyes and ears.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.zatokrev.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store

For more on the label, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/

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