Gimmicks in Metal aren’t anything new, from the ridiculousness of the likes of Alestorm to the more intellectual Egyptian themes of Nile. Not to mention all the Lovercraftian and Occult themed artists, it’s pretty safe to say that gimmicks are rife. I would say so rife in fact that almost no corner is left unturned, there are even Metal bands based of memes it really is that absurd. Yet then is this not often the charm that Metal has above other genres? That escape from reality and sense of enjoyment that just can’t be found in a lot of other forms of music.
Adding to the gimmick pool come Tzun Tzu from Australia with their emphasis upon ancient Japanese history. Pretty interesting subject matter and a polite nod to the likes of Nile for the old school history vibe. Much like Nile this band are also Death Metal. Formed in 2003 they have released a heavy dosing of EPs, as well as a couple of splits and a self-titled full length from 2012. So today we speak of The Forbidden City, the bands 2020 EP released through Lavadome Productions.
The opening title track is pretty standard Death Metal that really doesn’t display a great deal of Japanese influence. Indeed, it would be easy to not know this bands idea if you hadn’t seen the artwork or done any research. It isn’t bad though, the riffs are strong and the drums have a good tone. Vocally it is guttural and old school, bordering upon 90’s BDM at points. Kunoichi thankfully injects some traditional Japanese instrumentation around its midway point. This is a fantastic addition and instantly elevates the band’s sound to something different, vibrant and epic when coupled with the striking riffs. The closing track Ko’Muso reverts back to being a little too standard, I feel like more emphasis on the symphonic elements could totally change the sound of this band for the better.
I love the idea and I love the portions that bring in traditional Japanese music, they’re powerful and truly unique. Sadly, however these parts are few and far between which wasn’t what I expected or wanted at all. If you’re going to create something like this then take it to the extreme, make it everything and really shove it in people’s faces. This makes for an overall better delivery and music that sticks in people’s minds. I will be following the band more closely from now on as my interest is piqued but I can’t say that I’m impressed as such.
(6/10 George Caley)