If ever there was an open goal for a doom metal band in terms of musical and cultural thematics, this is it. The sound and spirit of the ancient East – long the imagined home of the tripped-out fan of all kinds of heaviness and the source of endless amounts of ambient and acoustic melodramatics that you can throw into the pot. And that’s exactly what Zaum have set about doing, first on their debut Oracles from a couple of years ago and now on the follow-up. The influences are too countess to mention from Sleep to Hawkwind and Om to Café Del Mar. Zaum wraps it all into a thickly-spread meditative mantra of doom that is pleasingly warped. Hold onto your bong, ponder those scraps of eastern philosophy you’ve picked up watching Kung Fu films from the 1970s and prepare to escape from Samsara.
Eidolon is made up of two 20-minute tracks where plodding, saurian doom weaves in and out of eastern ambience. Zaum uses pentatonic scales to create a lingering darkness and drops in multi-layered vocals from cleanly sung incantations, monastic chants and classic stoner doom hollering to round off the effect of a slowly but surely building incantation. Sitar and woodwind instruments are brought into play just in case you were in any danger of forgetting what part of the world the band is longing for and the basic riffs are stretched to breaking point across the tracks. The first track is an enjoyable romp bringing to mind the likes of Bong and Shrinebuilder although, while the length I’m sure is justifiable, it feels like both those bands could create so much more with the time available. But what Zaum is doing seems to be creating the perfect fusion of the doom genre with something that borders on the ambient and, yes, the plan is to create a world of darkening sunset-filled skies filled with heavy incense and visions of distant lands. Even though objectively I feel like there’s a little short-changing going on here and I would want at least another 20-odd minutes’ worth of this (ie an extra track) for my money the effect is pretty much as the band has envisaged.
Second track The Enlightenment sees the band hit its stride and for me is the better half of the album – and also the one that combines as much of the thickly applied Buddhist-themed icing on top as the band can cram into the allotted time – flutes wail, ominous percussion flutters in the background, keyboards build and those varied vocals drift across mesmerising riffs as the warm seasonal rains begin to fall on the vast elemental soundscape. At times Zaum is almost too obvious – certainly more so than the likes of kindred bands like Om and UK metallers Bong which have gone for a more slightly more subtle approach. Zaum I would suggest is more like dark n’ heavy foreground music for the bud-fuelled – there for the taking right from the outset with little preamble or fumbling around for the clever grooves at work. It’s a perfect combination of doom and ambient with circular riffs and rhythms that will no doubt hit the spot and which I cannot deny is all enough to make me want to find the nearest piece of stable sofa-sized furniture and roll a fat one for old time’s sake.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)