Saturday, May 26, 2012

REVIEW: Czar -- Vertical Mass Grave

 I will cop to being the slow kid around here.  I swear to god, most of the other guys who write for this blog are constantly posting stuff so brand new it really makes me wonder whether they're camped out in hipsters' showers so they hear the stuff as it's performed for the first time.  Then I remember that hipsters generally do not bathe, so I still have unanswered questions.

But I have standards of some sort. And as we hurtle down life's highway headlong into the middle of 2012, if I come on here and review an album from late 2011, it had better be mighty damned great.  Such is Vertical Mass Grave, the debut full-length from a terrific Chicago-based metal band called Czar.  I knew of neither the band nor the album a few weeks ago. Then I came across the video for the album opener, "Family Crest." It's hard to remember, but I'm pretty sure I had bought the album before the song had finished.  Just unreal -- see for yourself.

This record is as primal as you're likely to hear, yet at the same time it's intensely musical. The musicianship is stunning -- heavy on minor keys and iron gray, industrial overtones -- and, to me, feels like the City of Chicago. Three of the album's ten tracks are instrumentals, and the phenomenal closer, "Redeemer", flows through four minutes of Don Caballero-type prog mixed with Russian Circles slam before the vocals kick in. You folks who are fans the serious guitar noise of fellow Illinoisians Hum will definitely hear the influence of Matt Talbott, who recorded and engineered the album at his analog studio Great Western Record Recorders.

Go ahead and have another listen -- this time a nicely made live video from the Abbey Pub, which was posted back in April. Had I discovered this when it was released last year, it would have pushed most of my year-end best-of list down a notch.

Czar website on Cracknation Records

Czar on bandcamp

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