Italy and Greece seem to be accounting for a much greater percentage of our fetid promo sump of late. It’s like the Mediterranean region is vying to knock Scandinavia off the map as the key locus of metal, and they’re putting their collective back into it. Part of that sweaty collective back is Greek act Null’O’Zero, who play a kind of beefed up brand of traditional metal akin to Iced Earth, with a touch of the heavy prog of Symphony X. On their sophomore outing, Instructions to Dominate, they don’t waste precious time reworking the Great Wheel ov Metal into new shapes of designs, instead opting to clobber with heavy, and at times groovy riffs, ripping solos and more testosterone than a 300 reenactment sponsored by a Russian horse steroid manufacturer. Does that sound like your kind of domination?
The opening title track threw me for a loop at first, starting life with tasteful melodic guitar plucking before building into a heavy riff-fest that reminded me of Iced Earth, Pantera and even Prong. When Geo Sinner’s vocals showed up, my first thought was how much he sounds like David Draiman of Disturbed. And yes, there are slight elements of that band’s infamous sound embedded in the crunchy staccato riffing, but luckily these get plowed over by more traditional metal stylings. The good news is the song is heavy, urgent and quite catchy. It’s tailor-made for a work out playlist and has just the right amount of chest thumping bravado. Followup “The Last One” keeps the aggression while introducing techy guitar fireworks and power metal ideas, coming across like a heavier version of Firewind with a splash of early Astral Doors. Geo’s rough, raspy vocals drift into Dio and Russell Allen territory, and things are all the better for it. The chorus is a winner with an epic, heroic feel that will pump YOU up. This is good stuff!
“Decline the Legacy” is their most ambitious song, approximating what Symphony X did on albums like Paradise Lost. It’s heavy and aggressive but full of melodic sensibility and technical ability; delivering a punch in the face with an iron fist covered with velvet. The chorus is impactful and fist-pumping and the guitar-work is impressive. The way the band leverages heavy, meaty riffs with technical and melodic moments is quite impressive for a relatively unknown act, and it grounds the music in a solid foundation of badassery.
As impressive as the first half of Instructions is, things do tail off somewhat on the back half, but not disastrously so. Only power ballad “Until the End of Life” approaches dud status, and things end well with the uptempo martial chug of “Trapped in a Maze” and “Hate,” the album’s most aggressive cut, closing out in a macho fury. The biggest knock is that some songs are great while others are more average, though still enjoyable. With greater consistency in their writing this band could be really lethal. The production is surprisingly good, with plenty of crunch in the guitars, which also have a great tone. There’s plenty of room left open for the drums and bass too, and the mix is spot on.
Null’O’Zero‘s style is very guitar-driven, with Ilias Andritsos and Aggelos Kokkorogiannis showing their ample abilities at riff-craft, furiously wankery and beautifully melodic solos. This is a mighty talented pair and they put an outsized stamp on what could be pedestrian material in lesser hands. Geo Sinner does his part too with a powerful vocal performance. He’s got a big voice but manages not to oversing or steal the guitar’s thunder, instead finding his niche and bellowing his heart out to great effect. He’s at his best when in Russell Allen mode, which is most of the time, wisely. Overall I’m quite impressed by the band’s talent and ability.
Instructions to Dominate is a catchy, entertaining traditional metal album with an extra dose of heaviness and attitude on top of solid song writing. This should go over well with fans of modern Iced Earth in particular, but lovers of traditional and power metal will find something to like too. Null’O’Zero is on my metal detector now and with so much potential, I’m anxious to see what they do in the future. One of the happy little surprises of 2018 and definitely worth checking out. Hail our new Mediterranean overlords.