This quartet from Basel, Switzerland have been plugging away with their low-slung dramatics since 2003, and this constitutes their third long-player; this time with a new “fixed” line-up. The fact it’s getting a release on the revered Candlelight label proves just how well-received their early efforts have been. They describe their music as from the “sludge apocalypse” genre, which is an effective way of saying you touch most bases without actually nailing yourself to any one flagpole. Naturally, as an obsessive hack, I’ll try and guide you through their hellishly vast, genre-hopping sound as best I can.
Opening this can of worms, you’re first hit by the morphing, battering miasma of “Goddamn Lights”, which introduces you to their heady world of opposing tones. Here, disembodied screaming is blasted over rambling ambience which some might refer to as progressive hardcore, others as burbling doom meets screamo. Honestly, neither description seems wholly suitable, but it will set you in mind of the type of painful agony that bands like Amia Venera Landscape, The Elijah and Devil Sold His Soul peddle. Then, the necrophobic lyrics of “9” and the pent-up rage of “The Bat” point you in the direction of something much nastier; the Ihsahn-esque vocal howl, ritual drum patter and crushing strings cosy up to more of a pounding, black metal sludge.
Moving on still further to the howling stoner crush of “Medium” and its slower-paced brother “The Wheel”. The former bookends itself with the fist-throwing chorus but, in the middle, wastes our time by dicking around with a full six minutes of disjointed, self-indulgent experimentation; swathes of nothing but endlessly morphing, crescendos of tuneless white noise. There’s even a plodding, cleanly chanted “Angels Of Cross”, replete with a set of incessant chord strikes that are allowed to echo until they disappear, as they attempt to present yet another side of themselves and a kind of textured, psychedelic doom.
There’s forever the sense that a little refinement here and there could bring the hour-long running time down to something a little more digestible. There’s also the question of accessibility – the album would appeal to a much wider fanbase if it wasn’t for all that left-field string-scraping and ear-folding feedback. That kind of material is only going to appeal to those with a more eclectic ear. Of course, when they do put on their weeding gloves, even if just to break up their tracks or dial into a simpler rhythmic structure they become something else entirely. For those highlights, head to “Rodeo With Snakes”; a heavy-lidded, mescaline and blues-infused screamer – fans of The Plight will love it – and the two-parter “Feel The Fire”. That one burns up just the right amount of hardcore pound and weaving, plucked lead from “Part 1” before it’s dumped off as a sparser, less intense smouldering pile for “Part Two” to angrily sift through.
Zatokrev’s …Long Road To Nowhere is a hugely enjoyable, yet exhaustive and exhausting route to journey down – certainly prepare to experience both some sublime and ridiculous destinations en route.
(7/10 John Skibeat)