For Fans Of
For the best part of ten years now heavy metal has been a constant feature of my life. As my musical taste progressed from the Panteras and Metallicas of this world, I became engrossed in European metal – and in particular Scandinavian metal. What has always perplexed me over the past five years in particular though: “how does a country like Sweden consistently produce such high quality metal acts?”
Well after a recent visit to Stockholm only a couple of months ago I learnt a thing or two. Before you ask, NO this metal is not a direct result of acts like ABBA and Ace of Base leaving their impression on the masses – though this may explain bands like The Hives. It all boils down to two things: beer and boobs. Never have I witnessed such a blatant abuse of these two entities ever. Beer at A$12 a pint? Boobs being (deceivingly) manipulated with the latest technology in Wonderbras? Imagine the disappointment when you rock up at a bar and spend half a weeks pay on a single round! Imagine undoing that bra-strap and find out that things aren’t quite what they seemed! PISSED OFF! Now that I’ve shed some light on the situation, you can imagine a mass of testosterone driven Swedes who then pick up their instruments and much like Zonaria here repent their souls.
It is for this reason I am sitting here listening to The Cancer Empire; ten tracks of highly charged down-tuned metal, produced by the highly acclaimed Fredrik Nordström (At The Gates, Arch Enemy, Opeth, et al) probably best known in Australia for his work on I Killed The Prom Queen’s Music For The Recently Deceased. Zonaria could be best described as mid-tempo synth metal who draw influences from the likes of Hypocrisy, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir as well as Viking counterparts Amon Amarth. The industrial influences have resulted in much of the album having a choir/string backing effect used to emphasize melodic passages – in particular the choruses – that might have otherwise sounded mundane.
It is however these electronic influences that give Zonaria a slight appeal, because unfortunately there are no memorable face melting guitar solos or body moving bass lines. Five of the ten tracks on the album begin with the focus on a (let’s face it) really cheesy orchestral section that you could swear was ripped straight from one of the original Warcraft games. However looking past this, the use of these synth lines is consistent and helps bring back some melodic flair that one feels is lost – at times – by down-tuning to A. Additionally, it need be mentioned that this album is resembling most modern metal: overproduced, with too much close micing and replaced drum sounds.
Album highlights include Crowning King Cancer with it’s modulated guitar intro that eventually erupts over the top of a killer blast; album opener Slaughter Is Passion with it’s excellent flow and Termination Process (even if it does highly resemble Hypocrisy’s Carving For Another Killing at times). Possible omissions could have included: Contra Mundrum which feels like it drags on for too long without going anywhere and The Icon And The Faceless which feels like it takes an eternity (almost 2min!) to even get moving and seems to meander from that point on.
Some decent quality material here, but the albums progression toward slower material lets it down!
- "Slaughter is Passion" – 4:14
- "Praise the Eradication" – 4:05
- "Crowning King Cancer" – 5:46
- "Contra Mundum" – 4:37
- "Termination Process" – 3:32
- "At War With the Inferior" – 3:21
- "From the Abysmal Womb" – 5:26
- "Damnation Dressed in Flesh" – 4:01
- "Humanity Vs Sanity" 4:15
- "The Icon and the Faceless" 5:55