I’m an extreme guy. By this I don’t mean that I consider myself dangerous or an advocate of some horrendous 90’s marketing initiative, rather that I am a man of extremes – when I like something, I like it a lot; when I dislike something, I have almost no capacity to hide it. Having said that, I pride myself on giving anything and anyone a fair chance, and so it is with music. Lest I resort to using an entire genre as a de facto pejorative, I make sure that it’s an informed opinion that I weigh against an act. Thus, when I say I’m not a huge fan of deathcore, it’s an evaluated choice – not a trendy point of view. Often when people consider an album below par, we’re quick to deride it as awful, though realistically, it more than likely inhabits mediocrity’s favorite grey area than the genuinely offensive. Chicago’s No Zodiac are teetering on the brink of releasing their third album, Altars of Impurity, a record I have listened to excessively for the sake of a fair review. So, believe me when I tell you, there are no shades of grey here – it’s pretty fucking black and white.

It was on the back of Kronos‘ stellar review of the latest Fit For An Autopsy album – an unlikely release that I found myself adoring due to its obvious Gojira-gasm – that I happened upon this band. Hell, even the last Carnifex record didn’t entirely make me want to swallow my own ears, so I genuinely wondered if this was a genre I might yet parse… If, like me, you have never crossed paths with No Zodiac before, let me help you out. The band who, with the exception of drummer Erik Bartow, were entirely replaced in 2016, play a profoundly dull iteration of deathcore, one which puts emphasis on hardcore’s street level bravado whilst spoon-feeding us some of the most uninspired death metal inflection I’ve ever heard. Monotonous mid-paced riffs chug on for a small eternity with absolutely no discernible ability to recognize beginning from end. Apparently the kids are calling it “beatdown.” I call it a fucking chore.

The real devil in the detail here is the songwriting, or lack there of – rarely have I witnessed such a dearth of ideas. “Santisima Muerte” opens the record with some feedback until vocalist Rolo Hernandez’s growl bellows in. His voice is a reasonable approximation of Corpsegrinder’s effortless intimidation but without any of the innate enunciation – it’s also dripping in school-yard, tough guy swagger. Imagine the Cannibal Corpse frontman wearing a bandana and making gun signs with his fingers and you’re about halfway there. The track utilizes a very basic, but fundamentally propulsive riff until the breakdowns begin, which, when used properly can define a great song… Not when “breakdown” begins to apply to my sanity, perhaps even DNA. Even the aggression of album highlight “Hung by the Tongue,” inexplicably featuring Trevor Strnad, eventually descends into mindless lumbering. “Corroded Soul” and “Penance” both start out with some decent cyclical rhythms that at the very least got my head moving, but somewhere along the line I blinked and, before I knew it, was back in that purgatorial vault of anti-riffs, where lost souls miserably mill, begging to be fed a mouthful of ingenuity with a chaser of early Cryptopsy.

What makes matters worse is that, individually, the band probably aren’t all that bad. Although Hernandez’s vocals aren’t for me, he clearly has it in the tank, and guitarists Brent Gutierrez and Jeff Boozer, despite being unforgivable riff wastrels, occasionally dole out some respectable soloing over the sopo-riffs. That considered, it’s nigh unforgivable then that I had to persevere so, simply in an attempt to distinguish one song from another. Although I suspect album closer “Population Control,” featuring the pure poetry of “7 billion people, 7 billion too fucking many!” may stay with me for some time…

Altars of Impurity feels like an attempt to facilitate a schoolboy’s grasp on brutality, and a poor one at that, full of vacuous posturing and performed by a band who sound terminally bored of their own writing, which is inexcusable. It’s almost impossible to render something as definitively extreme as death metal dull, but No Zodiac managed it with aplomb by weaponizing homogeneity itself. They say if you gaze long enough into the abyss, sometimes deathcore looks back. Don’t fucking blink, or you deserve this.

Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Siege Music
Websites: facebook.com/NOZODIAC
Releases Worldwide: April 7th, 2017

  • GardensTale

    Damn, it managed to become dull and repetitive within the first minute. Good write-up though! How’s the headache?

  • SegaGenitals

    Riff Wastrels. New band name.

  • ashcindersmoke

    What fresh hell is this?

  • Sean Sky

    If you skip about 1/4 into any track on this album it would be hard to tell which track it is… They sound nearly identical.

  • Reese Burns

    This is garbage. But I did want to touch on the last Carnifex album. I’ve hated that band for almost their entire existence, but I actually really liked the last one. The black metal influences most likely helped.

    • Sean Sky

      Strange how bands can surprise us sometimes. Job for a Cowboy’s ‘Sun Eater’ showed me to keep an open mind about bands I thought sucked.

      • herrschobel

        same same

  • Black Metal Congas

    Great review… I appreciate the effort you put into explaining that this record does not suck subjectively, nor does it suck relatively – no, this is the real deal, the total, absolute and objective suckery. Good to know!

  • I counted 3 riffs total in the embedded track. None of them even remotely interesting. Ouch.

  • Akerblogger

    That embedded track = genius. You need to listen beyond the music. The instruments mean nothing. It’s all about the use of silence; the space in between. Up to the 1.51 point of the embedded track we’re greeted with a cascading tumult, pure rage released, a representation of the incoherent. It’s about capturing and conveying those emotions inside of of us that words cannot express. Music tries to convey this immutable horror that claws away at our insides, countless extreme bands have tried to convey this eternal nightmare, but none really can. So what is there to do? Well No Zodiac, at the 1.52 mark utilise a millisecond of pure silence between the crushing force of their breakdown. That split-second of silence is pure genius, not only because it presents a contrasting view of our need to put to the page, or music, that which cannot be grasped or conveyed, but it also provides a split-second of silence from the utter shit that has crushed my poor brain.

    • Ivan E. Rection

      Much like tossing a dozen crescent wrenches and a stray cat into a running clothes dryer. Guaranteed migraine, but every so often a split second of merciful silence. Not that I’d know this for a fact mind you.

    • Westpaceagle

      Hahaha you had me going

  • The video reminds me that when people headbang with those types of haircuts (i.e. the shaved sides and back with a wad of longer floppy hair on top) it looks very strange.

  • rumour_control

    Dude on the left in the band photo sort of sums it all up.

    • Thatguy

      Both bored and embarrassed – a hard look to pull off.

      • rumour_control

        Indeed. Well said. The elusive twosome of shame.

  • Felchmeister777

    Pretty clear from the band photo that this group of dumb-looking bell ends would produce musical excrement…

  • Thatguy

    At least it was a short track.

  • I tried to watch the video but the music was terribly boring. Then I decided to find a random song to play while watching the video instead. Turns out, playing Babymetal’s “give me chocolate” over the video holds a few moments of beautiful synchronicity. Almost amazingly well fitting is how, since the video is in black & white, the blood in the girls hand looks like chocolate.

    More serously: The vocalist of No Zodiac is incredibly, impossibly monotonous and of course mixed very loudly over the guitars, as is the trend in extreme metal these days. The heart and soul is in the riffing, so why does every band on the planet insist on mixing tedious grunting so loud it positively erases the impact of the music underneath? Forget about the loudness wars, this is my real pet peeve when it comes to modern metal production.
    Oh and I should note that super loud snare drums are almost as much of a pariah.

  • Excentric_13073

    If you put Corpsegrinder in front of a band with zero technicality, this is what you get.

  • herrschobel

    well that`s when dull people start bands…there is an image of this band somewhere on ze interwebs that clearly indicates that these guys are actually hollow bags of meat without a single original idea…at least musically…sometimes the look into a mans empty eyes can be quite revealing …no sparks ..

  • LongDeadGod

    If you’re going attempt to play tough guy slams you’d think somebody could make an attempt at a pushup or having a scar from going outside their mom’s basement. One of the least threatening groups of doughboys I’ve seen in a while.

  • Westpaceagle

    Ferrous has now proven to be equally entertaining, if not more entertaining, when reviewing a shot album as a good one. That DNA bit.. fucking harious