Zohamah - Spread My Ashes - (8/10)
Published on March 27, 2019
If you’ve made it this far and are looking for a way to spend your last 30 minutes, consider Zohamah’s first full-length as a suitable accompaniment to the denouement of the apocalypse. (Assuming, of course, that you agree with Hezi Manashe, sole member of the Israeli band, and feel like the world has mostly run its course.) The reason this is your recommendation for the eleventh hour – or eleventh and a half hour, unless you’re going to play Spread My Ashes twice – does not stem only from a dramatic sense of destruction or nihilism that the songs exude, nor a strict avowal that our time is nigh: these seven modest chapters are simply flavoured with all the desperation and submission that you’ll be feeling as you go the way of the dinosaurs and the dodo, disappearing forever. Amongst songs titled “Black Cloud”, “Emptiness”, and “The Darkness Whispers in My Ear”, the opener drives the nail in even deeper – “New World”.
Though largely inexperienced in terms of recordings, Manashe proves capable of handling all instruments, plus vocals. On occasion, the drumming feels less organic than the strings that the lone pilot is used to handling, though considerations of genre-splicing are partly to blame. The songs remain primarily slow yet occasionally incorporate death metal drumming in the form of blastbeats, which seems like an odd contrast. However, the energy of the drumming meets ferocious, sickened vocals, resulting in a sound that seems about to tear itself apart, pent up anguish released in furious bursts as the inevitable guitars drone on in doom style. Rare transitions into fast sections maintain the unpredictability of the ordeal, shattering the lamenting mood of the melodies and the bulky oppression of the slow riffing. Some will try to tell you that Zohamah peddles black/death/doom, but anyone who understands how the first Katatonia album didn’t have to choose any particular slant to be magisterial will know what Spread My Ashes sounds like at its best.
Even at its quieter moments, the album channels that aching, bitter melancholy that Dance of December Souls made its own, “New World” breaking down into strummed acoustic guitar and bass lilting a solo, Manashe whispering heartforsaken psalms to the end as catastrophic samples of thunder crash around. When his blackened howls come back in, they rip the intimacy apart and you see him splayed against the lightning-impaled sky, pitting his voice against nature. The melody lines that drive “A Broken Mirror” occupy just the same kind of raw emotional space, while the title track proves merely a radiant tunnel into the closing song, which is named after the band. Despite falling short of six minutes, “Zohamah” spans the greatest length, rumbling on into the endzone of existence by means of rolling mid-paced groove and hopeless sustained chords punctuated by the sudden violence of hopeless blasting. You’ll never feel more ready to disappear.
Now, we’ve already covered the fact that the end of the world contains plenty of drama, though an offputting thought may creep into your head for a moment that it’s all a big joke. Regarding listeners of Spread My Ashes, that joke is zinged forth by “Black Cloud”, which simply doesn’t carry any of the distraught power of the other cuts, nor truly does “Emptiness”, even if some hulking lead riff lines and a swelling refrain ensure that you’ll be staring into the white dwarf of the sun until it implodes. “Black Cloud” represents only a three minute wrong turn, though rather a significant one, since no one wants to think about Crowbar attacking Whitechapel as their life flashes before their eyes. As an already brief experience, Manashe could have seen to it that the album stayed a mite more consonant by refining those parts that worked well into broader compositions, since most bands of this nature consider 10 minutes hardly excessive.
Troubling as the apocalypse tends to be, a sense of refinement can be gleaned from Spread My Ashes that makes it a worthy companion to the end. And, though final dissolution makes such feelings difficult to muster, you really should be looking forward to the next time the name Zohamah appears on a record. This is a fine way to make an impression.