One of my favorite releases of 2007 went to ZONARIA’s debut release “Infamy And The Breed”, as these young Death Metallers took heavy influences from the classics like HYPOCRISY to a new generation of Metalheads. They combined the best of many elements to make an album that would have been impressive from those classic bands let alone as a debut. So when I saw that their sophomore effort “The Cancer Empire” was already to be out by the end 2008, I snatched it up as soon as possible to see if the band could pull it off twice.
They did it. “The Cancer Empire” has the band taking their music even further towards a melodic direction, although it still doesn’t sacrifice some of the heavy parts for the sake of melody. The second album from these young Swedish men does feel a bit more unique in its direction than their first album. It’s more of an individual sound for the band and less of a combination of their influences as the band strikes some new chemistry we haven’t heard before.
Some changes have been made on this album to create this more distinctive sound. Originally the keyboards were an added layer that complimented the song but on “The Cancer Empire” the keyboards have taken a more prominent role in leading and arranging how the music moves. On “Slaughter Is Passion” it’s the keyboards that lead us in and for most of the song they break and position how it moves particularly on the chorus. This new keyboard prominence distinguishes the band a bit more and adds a very cool and melodic layer that ZONARIA had yet to toy with.
But of course, the keyboards are not the biggest change for ZONARIA. They have chosen to write their music in a lighter tonality. The density from the first album has been made porous to make way for stronger hooks and melodies. Breaks for fills from various instruments lighten the load (check out the odd guitar tone and bass heavy intro to “Crowning King Cancer”) and create a little more distinction between tracks.
The songwriting just seems a bit more diverse then the band has touched before. Tempos and dynamic writing seems to have taken a more cohesive part in the overall structuring of songs and the album and it creates an album that is both unique on individual song levels and as a whole. It’s exciting to hear the band moving this direction.
ZONARIA have matured into their music. “The Cancer Empire” shows that the band is able to move away from the others and form their own path of Melodic Death Metal music making. Whether or not this album is better than their original is up to the listener – I for one think both are amazing releases juts moving in different directions. What “The Cancer Empire” does show us is that the band is here for the long haul and they just keep doing it with style.
Songs to check out: “Slaughter Is Passion”, “Crowning King Cancer”, “From The Abysmal Womb”.
(Online January 19, 2009)