Dusted Reviews

Zozobra - Savage Masters

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Zozobra

Album: Savage Masters

Label: Brutal Panda

Review date: Apr. 10, 2013

About a decade ago, more or less, the Massachusetts axis of Converge, Cave In, and Isis (not to mention regional acts like Drowningman, Cable, or others on the early Hydrahead roster) seemed very much at the forefront of new directions in “heavy” music. After a very dissolute period for Cave In, that group’s Caleb Scofield formed Zozobra in 2006, and their first two releases were heavy on the atmospheric sludge and expansive doom that sometimes made its way into the collective Old Man Gloom (of which Scofield was also a part). On Savage Masters, the band seems interested in going for an unvarnished, nakedly aggressive return to roots. Think not so much Nick Cave going full Grinderman so much as Cave In’s own swerve away from their proggy leanings (and their woeful bid for major label success) on recent records like Perfect Pitch Black. Makes sense, given that Scofield has recruited two of his mates from that band (guitarist Adam McGrath and drummer J.R. Conners) to join him on this brief, bludgeoning six-pack.

The music is stripped down for sure and on some level seems to suggest a death ‘n’ roll influence (recalling recent entries by bands like Struck by Lightning). But with Scofield’s guttural statements of defiance, the key element here really is old-school hardcore. There are several breakdowns, shout-along moments and fierce gallops through succinct tunes -- all the right ingredients, for sure ... but something about it all sounds just a smidge unconvincing at this stage of the game. That’s not to say that it’s “inauthentic,” and perhaps it would deliver the right frisson in a live setting. But it’s significant that the best moments on Savage Masters are those that deviate from its core personality. “Venom Hell” doesn’t really sound much like Venom, so much as early Misfits covered by Entombed, and it’s intermittently a gas. “Black Holes” features some nice, Amphetamine Reptile guitar claustrophobia and a pleasantly vigorous d-beat section. The briefest tune, “A Chorus of War,” has some interesting psychedelic effects that stand out, but it comes across as something that might be plopped into the middle of a recent High on Fire song, to much better effect (ditto for the stuttering, lurching “Born in a Blaze”).

Something of the sonic weight Cave In was always able to achieve gives these tunes more than a mere “hardcore roots” sound in places, but it’s the writing that really doesn’t quite move me. I suppose it’s good fun, since it’s punchy as shit and hits all the right marks. But nothing about Savage Masters strikes me as especially noteworthy or memorable; it’s just a bunch of vets having a good time going old-school.

By Jason Bivins

Read More

View all articles by Jason Bivins

Find out more about Brutal Panda

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.