This is pretty damn indispensable listening, and somewhere down below the man with the horns and cape is grinning in wild approval.
Blackened death metal is a hybrid between black metal and death metal, a subgenre that puts the emphasis on progressiveness and doesn’t conform to the narrow rigidity of traditional black metal. Needless to say, you either like it or you don’t, depending on your views of what metal should and should not sound like, as it is quite extreme in its sonics and its ideology. Entering the fray is Ireland’s ZOM, whose Flesh Assimilation is their debut. And what a debut it is. It is a maelstrom of pure noise, whiplash pacing and vocals that come straight out of the seventh circle of Hell. The beats are so strenuous that one imagines Lucifer himself whipping the drummer of this outfit into submission. And given the fact that this band is Irish, I hear a little bit of their northern metal cousins Therapy? in the mix a bit.
Essentially, though, Flesh Assimilation is one big thrill ride, and not one for the meek or timid souls. This is metal of the blackest night, with hints and echos of Nachtmystium. However, it also feels original at times, not quite like anything you may heard before, unless, of course, you’re the type of person to scrape the bottom of the underground metal community. So, your taste in this may vary – this is not commercial metal in the least – but one cannot deny the raw power and heft of ZOM’s muscle.
However, despite not being all that commercial, that doesn’t mean that Flesh Assimilation isn’t totally inaccessible. Far from. The final song and title track on this eight-cut collection is built for head nodding, for instance. Still, ZOM can be quite harrowing at times. The first song, “Tombs of the Void”, actually opens up with the sounds of human cries of anguish, as though the band travelled across the river Styx and captured on tape all of the flagellating sounds of souls being tormented somewhere on the other side. From there, there is a guitar squeal and then the rest of the band kicks in, creating literally a stew of blackness – the drums thunder, the vocals expectorate, the guitars roar to life.
While the playing isn’t all that technical – guitar solos are largely in absentia on this record, and tend to be fairly brief when they do take the spotlight – there’s meatiness to ZOM’s trademark squalor. Tempos shift like sands passing through an hourglass, and everything is one roar from the jaws of the beast. Things slow down to a grinding pound on “Hordes of the Cursed Realms”, the type of song that you would initially want to raise a fist to, until things turn on a curve and become almost thrashy. That’s what makes Flesh Assimilation so appealing: it’s vastly unpredictable, and ZOM keeps you on your toes. The album is one big game of “what will they think of next?” (Cue the Science International theme for all you Canadian kids of the ‘70s.)
Flesh Assimilation also works because of its near flawless construction, with one song bridging into the next with little chance or opportunity to catch your breath. This is no mere collection of songs; it is an album, a work of art. It’s also a fairly tight record: most of the songs, save one, all hover around the three or four minute mark, with only “Conquest” nudging past five minutes. All of the fat has been trimmed, and what you get is a lean slice of meat. A piece of meat with maggots emerging from it, I’ll grant, but a choice cut nevertheless. The aforementioned “Conquest” is quite interesting, as it starts out with a sludge and trudge of a beat, before someone gives the drummer a shot of amphetamines, and then ZOM achieves lift-off, flying eight miles high in the air. The song is manna from the metal gods themselves, the kind of song forged in fire and hammered to perfection on Satan’s anvil. Its tempos shift, its guitars buzz, and the vocals are so full of pain and despair that the end result is a song that has been earthed from the darkest mud from the deepest part of the earth. Meanwhile, “Illbeings Unspeak” is played so fast, that it creates a virtual strobe effect: if you suffer from seizures, you may want to tiptoe silently past this one. “Dead World” continues with the sunning whiplash pace, and, basically, the overall impression you get is that if ZOM were runners in the 100 meter sprints, these guys would easily be Olympians.
Overall, Flesh Assimilation is a fantastic album. There’s a heartfelt emotion (well, as heartfelt as you can get in the metal community – beyond the peals of grunts and moans) and the band’s ability to change things up and play at frenetic speeds creates something that you cannot help but stand up and notice. The cymbals in particular make this something that feels forged in the hottest of ovens, playing so fast at times that the overall effect is like listening to a sustained note. And, to be true, this is a record that feels absolutely evil and terrifying, although it doesn’t quite reach the despairing low of, say, certain tracks towards the end of Ministry’s Psalm 69. Still, this is metal for the daring and adventurous, for those who love going into a dark, dank basement and uncovering the sludge that is buried there. Put another way, this is pure cannibalism music: pop that eats itself and then spews what is undigested all over those who dare listen.
So this is an LP of the evilest evil, of vile vileness, and yet it is not the kind of thing that you’ll want to keep at arm’s length. The more you listen, the more you appreciate the rawness and visceral nature of ZOM’s death-black metal hybrid. Flesh Assimilation is music that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride to, and they are coming for you, they’re going to take your soul, and ZOM absolutely puts the fear of the maker into you. This disc is not music for those who want to be saved, this is music for those who know they are damned. It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s like a bad car accident. You can’t look away, at least not with your ears. ZOM’s soundtrack to the end of times will remain when the earth is cast into shadow, the demons and hellspawn of the below are unleashed, and you will be taken away for all of eternity. Flesh Assimilation is pretty damn indispensable listening, and somewhere down below the man with the horns and cape is grinning in wild approval.