Zaum - Divination - (6.5/10)
Published on June 25, 2019
Zaum is a psychedelic doom metal band from Moncton, Canada, consisting of Kyle Alexander McDonald (vocals/bass/sitar/keyboards) and drummer/percussionist Christopher Lewis. The project was formed in 2013 and quickly released their debut album, Oracles, in 2014, followed by 2016’s Eidolon. The band, which was a duo since their formation, is now joined by Nawal Doucette (keyboards/electronics) for their third album, Divination.
You may have noticed that there was no mention of a guitarist in the above description, since Zaum goes the Bell Witch route and doesn’t have one. Instead, the riffs that would normally be played by a guitar are all sitar and bass on Divination. The band also throws a number of other musical instruments at the wall on Divination, including jaw harp, digideroo, singing saw, dilruba, saz, brass bells, brass bowl, and finger cymbals. The resulting sound is pretty close to what the band describes themselves as-Middle Eastern mantra doom.
Divination contains long, ritualistic songs with lengthy ambient pieces that are heavy on atmosphere and steeped in mysticism. Lyrically, the band has shifted focus a little in terms of its geographic information, moving out of the Middle East to ancient Burma. The sitar forms the core of the band’s sound, weaving powerful melodies and rhythms that caused me at first to not notice guitars were absent. The vocals are in a hazy stoner doom style, accompanied by plenty of repetitive chanting.
Stylistically, I think the closest band to Zaum is Om. The sitar is hypnotizing for much of the album’s run time, the drums are solid, and all of the extra instrumentation creates the meditative sound the band is aiming for. And therein lies the issue I have with Divination-too much atmosphere, not enough doom riffage. It’s not the lack of guitars; Bell Witch manages to do it without a guitar, so it’s possible. And it’s not the reliance on the sitar; Zaum has created a far more balanced effort with their debut that finds the sweet spot between dreamlike atmosphere and powerful songwriting. Divination on the other hand is far more on the former’s side of things, and much like a dream it’s difficult to remember once it’s over.
Divination is far from a bad album, but it’s a little too meandering for me to wholeheartedly recommend to anyone other than diehard psychedelic doom fans. Fans of atmospheric doom will no doubt eat this right up, but those looking for something a little heavier and more conventional should steer clear.