Zonaria // Arrival of the Red Sun
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — A fuckin’ kickass fuckin’ record motherfucker.
Websites: zonaria.com | facebook.com/zonariaofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2012-07-20/23 | NA: 08.14.2012
Umeå, Sweden is not a big city. It has about 80,000 residents and is a sleepy little town by anyone’s standards but Sweden’s. But don’t let that fool you, since it has produced a number of impressive bands such as Meshuggah, Naglfar, Nocturnal Rites, Refused, Cult of Luna, Persuader and a number of other great bands that have a much smaller profile. Anyone reading that list will notice, however, that the majority of that list is rooted in the ’90s and the rise of Swedish metal. So, Zonaria has always been a bit of a footnote to the Umeå legacy. By the time they released their first record Infamy & the Breed in 2007, the Swedish metal scene’s dominance was a thing of the past and melodic death metal—Zonaria‘s stock in trade—was pretty much the red-headed step kid of the metal scene. That didn’t stop the band’s debut from making a splash and getting the band signed to Century Media—where they released Cancer Empire in 2008 to rave reviews and… were promptly never heard from again. Until now, that is.
Zonaria is back, this time with a new bassist (Max Malmer, formerly of Death Maze and currently of Folkmord), a new record label and a shit-ton of late-Hypocrisy-inspired melodic death metal. It’s funny, ’cause there aren’t a ton of Swedish bands that really do the Hypocrisy thing, despite that band being super successful internationally, but Zonaria really has been knocking out riffs and writing (and vocals) that sound like they were birthed out of Peter Tägtgren’s weird little Swedish mind since 2007. Still, this is hardly a critique, instead it should give you an idea of what you’re in for: a pummeling (with keys). Arrival of the Red Sun is short, running at 40 minutes, and the songs get no longer than 4 minutes and 30 seconds. The riffs are razor sharp, with infectious hooks and gratuitous pig squeals—propped up by fat bass, frenetic drums and with Simon Berglund’s mid-ranged growls and Dimmu Borgir-like keys and orchestrations sailing over the rest. Yup, it’s Swedish melodic death metal (with keys).
But what separates this from the herd, then? Well, I’d have to say it’s the riffs. From the harmonized guitars and sick groove they lay down (complete with crowd chanting) on opener and title track “Arrival of the Red Sun,” it’s obvious what the band is about. The opener’s post-thrash riffing with blasts and give way to “Silent Holocaust” which uses keys to make a mediocre riff into a great piece and has a kick ass clean vocal part in the chorus—oh, also mid-paced death metal riffs that remind me of Hypocrisy. The record continues in this fashion; melodic, groovy, heavy and unapologetically dramatic. The drama is often accomplished with arpeggiated chorus melodies that add a pomp to the otherwise fairly simplistic riffing, like on “Gunpoint Salvation,” “The Blood that Must Be Spilled” and “Full Spectrum Dominance.” Also, just check out the riff on pre-chorus of “My Vengeance Remains.” Sick.
Not to say that there are no fuckin’ problems, though. The biggest fuckin’ problem with this fuckin’ record is the fact that these fuckin’ Swedes got a hold of some fuckin’ American movies and a fuckin’ rhyme dictionary and decided to write them some fuckin’ lyrics. While there seems to be plenty of standard-issue death and nuclear destruction kind of stuff, as well as run-of-the-mill complaining about Christianity, there are some fuckin’ problems. First off, I think that Berglund must say the word “desire” 20 fuckin’ times on this record. Then, he also rhymes it with “fire.” C’mon kids, why not “pyre” or “liar” or “wire” or “higher” or “pliers”? Or how about “chill” and “kill”? Ugh. They also apparently learned some-fuckin’-where that you can just drop the fuckin’ word fuck into your fuckin’ song to fill in the fuckin’ spaces where you can’t fuckin’ come up with a fuckin’ interesting fuckin’ lyric. It’s kinda fuckin’ annoying and pretty fuckin’ repetitive and I kinda wanna kick them in their fuckin’ heads. For future reference, dudes, people who actually speak English listen to your fuckin’ records—you can’t just write “what sounds cool” and pass that off as lyrics. Fuckin’ a.
But aside from that fuckin’ problem, I dig the hell out of this record. In the last couple years we’ve been treated to a few really solid melodic death metal records and for a guy like me, that’s always a treat. Zonaria seem to be perfectly healthy sans Century Media and Arrival of the Red Sun comes highly recommended from this Angry Metal Guy. It might take a bit of time to grow on you—it certainly took a few listens for me—but if you get it into a good set of speakers and let the heavy-ass Ronnie Björnström production (he also does The 11th Hour and is great) and well-written riffs wash over you, you’re bound to fuckin’ enjoy yourself.