Zigoku Quartet – この世の地獄物語 – 4.5/5
Two main recent discussions has gone into prompting this review; the first on thrash where I realised that I find a lot of it gets monotonous rather quickly (and why you’ll probably find a lack of it on this blog) and the second on underutilised riffs which was the catalyst for this discovery. Unquestionably one of the best releases I’ve heard from the genre for a long time (taking into account my fleeting affiliation with the genre) as this isn’t so concerned with demonstrating unbridled aggression as it is meandering around; flamenco passages, groove-laden lines and melodies that sink their teeth into you from the first listen all combine to create a release that would make any fan of Doom or Gargoyle bounce with excitement.
I should probably first elaborate on the actual genre they play, for whilst I’ve thus far described them as thrash, this is simply the ‘title of best fit,’ and it isn’t quite accurate. Normally I would be hesitant to refer to any thrash musician as a virtuoso, not because what they’re playing isn’t difficult but because it’s made to sound dissonant and jarring, aggressive by being intentionally made to feel quick. A virtuoso musician may not be actually playing anything more complex, but simply makes the music seem so fluid and simplistic that you think you can just grab a guitar and copy along (and its only when you have the guitar in hand that you realise you really cant). This in most cases is a bad thing for thrash; it needs to feel raw and visceral; it needs to sound on edge, and smooth grooves simply don’t do that. But this is all considering what happens when you add a single virtuoso. This band doesn’t have one virtuoso, it has three.
It never feels suitable to describe it as anything as simple as a manifestation of some big jamming session between them, the tracks have a base rhythm unusually held primarily by the vocalist who succeeds in creating epic soaring vocal lines that form the centrepiece of the track, surrounded by a frenzied wall of drums, wailing away in an unrelenting and unbridled pattern of drum beats, and yet this only forms one side of their sound. It’s the unfathomable number of short fills and solos that emerge from the twin guitars that forms the other, one instrument maintaining the rhythm whilst the other slots some virtuosity into the track, only to be complemented by the drums. Constantly battling back and forth, shredding, grooving, slapping and sweeping, happily taking their time to develop their own brand of aggression which arrives in no short supply.
Everything is too varied, too addictively melodic to really feel like thrash a good portion of the time, and yet the aggression arises instead from the chaos created by the sheer number of instruments colliding and harmonising with one another; you never know when the music will suddenly shift direction or what direction the musical assault is going to emerge from. Smooth bass grooves, neo-classical wizardry, emotion-laden passages and hard as nails thrash riffs are all seamlessly combined schizophrenically to create a piece as stylistically diverse as it is impressive. They’ve yet to really garner much attention but I’d be highly surprised if this is the case for long.
Highlights: Track 4, Track 5, Track 7, Track 11