Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Kazakhstan?” I’d bet good money the majority of you would reply “Borat” to that question. Fact is, many of us know very little about the largest landlocked country in the world (thanks, Wikipedia!) despite the fairly major economic power the country represents. Maybe it’s because metal is not a popular thing there. Despite its 18 million inhabitants, the Metal Archives lists barely over two dozen active bands, with the only one of any prominence, the prolific classic metal act Holy Dragons. Zarraza does not intend to put up with that, nor with anything else, judging by their furious debut Necroshiva. Intent on taking their baseball bats to the kneecaps of their government and religious leaders, the quartet channels their indignation through the triple threat of death, thrash and groove metal.
Effectively, I should add, because Necroshiva is pumped up with righteous anger from every angle, and without sacrificing hooks. The vocals hover somewhere between thrashy shout and full-fledged growl and convey a white-hot fire, a spit-flicked inclination born directly from sheer fury over the state of society around them. “The fools of the world have been those / Who have established faith / Who have established laws / Which makes me desperate,” sounds in opener “Abyss Above Me,” and the passion is palpable. A special commendation here to drummer Ruslan Konon, whose dynamic performance keeps the music from one-dimensionalism, and whose livid abuse of his kickdrums ensures every moment hits hard. The guitars take more from the thrash and groove metal side of the equation, stringing rapid riffs together and spazzing out admirably during the solos.
The sustained rage is not entirely without drawbacks. Variety is an issue because the entirety of the album is a thick wall of riffs and pummeling kickdrums with similar high tempos. A short dirge interlude functions as a not entirely unwelcome breather, but I would have preferred a more mid-paced track with the anger seething below the surface, rather than keeping it constantly as in-your-face as it is now. The vocals in particular, despite their effective aggression, suffer from all-out all the time syndrome, so tracks do tend to blend together a little. Aside from this, some of the poorer elements of groove metal have made the cut, such as the overuse of the guitar squeal for which Machine Head is often so relentlessly mocked (or was, until Rob Flynn made himself a more appealing target.) The title track has it the worst, squealing every few measures, and it becomes distracting the same way a lecturer with a verbal tic does.
These issues don’t break the album, though, because the central tenet remains intact: destroy those who try to control us with unbridled violence. With its limited running time, scarcely hitting 35 minutes, Necroshiva makes for a quick burst of melody-infused anger that never holds back on this promise, and that makes it a good candidate for that quick burst of rage required when some chode dicks you over in the office (you know who I mean, Dave.) To facilitate this, the production has also been cranked to in-your-face levels. It doesn’t detract from the experience too much (the album is too short for fatigue and it’s not unsuitable for the genre), though the feeling of insufficient variety isn’t improved by the bricky master. I do enjoy the increased drum in the mix though, which helps with the pummeling aesthetic of the band.
Necroshiva is a solid album that is certainly a worthy export product for Kazakhstan. The sustained fury is channeled through an excellent barrage of riffs, a roaring rabid maniac and a set of drums that hit the spot every time. It likely won’t cause a grand awakening of metal in the country; it doesn’t hit those levels of unique or remarkable. But it’s fun, crushes hard and is done before you get tired of it. As Borat would say: is nice, yes?