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Dark Zodiak – Ophiuchus

Dark Zodiak
Ophiuchus
by Max Elias at 08 January 2021, 10:22 PM

The new DARK ZODIAK starts off softer and more atmospheric than one might expect from a dark, heavy band like them. The first song on the album is “Do More Say Less”, and it opens with a ringing clamor of clean guitars that remind me of something off DEATH ANGEL’s Act III. It quickly turns into pretty cut and dry thrash, albeit with tasty riffs littered throughout the song. The post-chorus riff stands out particularly well to me. The band shows from the beginning of “Do More Say Less” that they understand how to craft a song, with more active and less active parts and smooth transitions from verse to verse and in and out of the solo.

“Heaven, Earth and Beneath” is furious from the first notes; the galloping double-bass throws the rest of the band into overdrive with it. But even amidst the mayhem of rapid riffs and manic screams, there is time for respite. The band slows down briefly around halfway through the song to give the listener time to collect themselves before subjecting them once again to anthemic sonic assault. A cutting, barbed-wire guitar tone helps to imbue DARK ZODIAK’s music with urgent fervor. “Invisible Apocalypse” follows suit, only without the slowing down part. It’s a fine song, although the weird thing about it is the vocalist occasionally sounds like a cross between gurgling and blowing on a whistle, during the choruses. That actually happens on other songs too, and I can’t figure out what he’s supposed to be saying when it does.

Speaking of the vocals, it sounds like Chuck Schuldiner was an influence, the way the highs seem reminiscent of his work on Sound of Perseverance. This is especially apparent on “Ophiuchus”, the title track and longest track of the album. “Ophiuchus” shows off the band’s ability to go from full blast to calm and serene without breaking a step; the clean break in the middle is very Master of Puppets-esque. The riffs are equally mighty as they are elsewhere, bristling with antagonism and spite and buoyed by the talents of drummer Dieter Schwarz, who saturates DARK ZODIAK’s music with energy wherever he appears.

DARK ZODIAK seem to be big fans of huge choruses, as most of them so far have been gang shouts of the title, increasingly frenetic each time. “Destroy Destruction” and “Do More Say Less” do this and it brings some of the energy of a live performance onto the studio recording. You also see these choruses on “From Thrash to Death”, the obligatory metal song about metal that all thrash bands do at some point. The choruses also show the vocals at their best, when their edge and clarity are allowed to shine through.

The best riffs on the album are in my opinion on “Humor”, starting with the opening riff, which is a bit more swaggering and even bluesy than any other riff on the album. There’s also a transition from a big, sweeping chordal part into a razor-sharp galloping riff that sends anyone listening into a headbanging frenzy. Another standout is “2020 A.D.”, for being both objectively not that fast and still forceful and dynamic. The galloping, palm-muted grooves of the verses hit like tiny trucks. It feels like a very stripped-down, almost tribal song, and then the tempo explodes around two and a half minutes in..

The band does a good job of changing their formula on occasion without straying from their THRASH METAL base. On “Do More Say Less” they opened with a calm and eerie buildup, and they hint at their ability to incorporate melody again on “Absolute Freedom”, which also starts with a clean intro, and throws out a striking melody as a prelude to the solo, which is in itself very melodic and legato. The album closes with the opposite of this, a gripping, howling, flailing THRASH METAL beast called “Ignorance”. Power chords and piercing harmonics sear a blazing path through the three minutes and fifty-seven seconds of the song. The hypnotic build of the vocals and repeated pinch harmonics towards the end coalesces into a fitting climax to this powerful album. The two things still bothering me are the weird gurgling/whistling (and now I’m adding ‘breathing through his teeth’ as a third descriptor of what the sound is like) noise that happens a decent amount, and the fact that I think the production was just a touch murky, and the typically high-energy thrash riffing suffered for it.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Originality: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Do More Say Less
  2. Heaven, Earth and Beneath
  3. Invisible Apocalypse
  4. Ophiuchus
  5. Destroy Destruction
  6. Humor
  7. From Thrash Til Death
  8. 2020 A.D.
  9. Total Freedom
  10. Ignorance
Lineup:
Simone Schwarz – Vocals
Dieter Schwarz – Drums
Charly Gag – Guitar
Benni Poeck – Guitar
Steffi Bergmann – Bass
Record Label: STF Records
     


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