Zoroaster - Matador (2010)
Zoroaster is a doom/sludge metal band formed in 2003 in Atlanta, GA (USA) from the disbanded remnants of Terminal Doom Explosion. To date they have released 1 split, (with Music Hates You) 3 live discs and 4 full-lengths, of which Matador is the latest, released July this year.
The production effort on Matador is pretty solid all around. Most of the instruments cut through when you listen for them, which is an achievement considering that some sections of the disc use a ton of reverb and delay. The drone-ier parts of the album highlight this; these passages really capture that "from the mountaintop" aesthetic that stoner music strives for ("Old World" is a prime example). There is a huge sense of space and distance here that comes across as very real and very professionally applied.
The composition of Matador is a template of standard-faire, Sleep-esque stoner/psychedelic revelrie. Some songs very strongly echo Sleep's Holy Mountain (ie. "Ancient Ones", "Trident") in both envelope and the way they are written. They always manage to sound updated, however, and the heavier/distorted vocals in particular excell by using true metal technique, as opposed to mere shouts. There are elements of drone, punk, and black- and death-metal which surface (vocally) over the length of the disc, which is a sure sign of a very talented vocalist. Effect useage, as expected, is generally very tasteful and fits the overall sound of the disc. At times it borders on overkill, ("Firewater", "Matador") but the sharp mixing job manages to keep it from being fatuiging. As is the case in many bands in these genres, Zoroaster's drummer keeps things moving with grace and style through the whole album, and of special note is the tom work on songs like "D.N.R".
Matador's biggest downfall is that it isnt the most original thing to be produced in this kind of music, not by a longshot. If you are a follower of heavy stoner and psychedelic music, there probably isnt anything on this disc that you havent heard an approximation of before. All the standard tennents are here: huge sonic space, mostly pentatonic, slowed down riffing, guitar solos with tons of phase and flange, and vauge themes of religion and transcendance. What sets Matador apart, however, is the sense of professionalism with which its excecuted. There is no blunter way to put it: this is a very well mixed and engineered album, an although this is an improvement over the standard, it doesn't mask the quintessence of most of the disc.
Matador's relative lack of originality does not keep it from being a standout album. Though it might not bring you satori or invent any new genres, it knows what it is and what it needs to do, and does it very well. The disc is unlikely to satisfy those who listen mainly to the more insiduous and technical types of heavy music, as it rarely comes across as threatening or brutal . On the other hand, if you have been in wanting for some well excecuted anthems in the Sleep lineage, buy this disc, put it on and turn it all the way up; you will be glad you did.
Production - 9
Composition - 8
Originality - 6
Overall - 7.6