Album: No Salvation – EP
“One” gets all the credit for being the most important value on our numerical scale. If you buy into children’s playground chants, first is the best—if you’re an athlete, you probably agree. It’s on countless diet products around the world; Hell, Pepsi even named one of its first low-sugar and low-calorie beverages after it.
But what about zero?
Without zero, one would mean absolutely nothing. Zero is the standard by which all real numbers hold value, and on the Kelvin Scale, it is the cessation of cellular and molecular function. It doesn’t get much more important than that. So while we typically associate “zero” with things that lack value and worth, that couldn’t be farther from the truth—and the Pacific Northwest’s newest heavy music ensemble of the same name are proof of that. Zero are about as close to a supergroup as the underground heavy music scene gets, formed by members of both Extortionist and Enterprise Earth, this crushing quartet draw from their collective experience in the hardcore and metal scene to bring the listener something fresh and new. One part raunchy beatdown hardcore, one part early 2000s metalcore and one part pure heaviness, No Salvation is the short but sweet debut offering from Zero; a release bound to have heavy music fanatics around the world begging for peace and serenity where there is none to be found.
Zero put pure aggression and relentless fury in a blender and put it in full blast—creating an acrid, dense sludge that they proceed to coat the listener in one breakdown and slam at a time. No Salvation is, in many ways, beefy beatdown hardcore perfectly designed for those who are otherwise bored to death by the genre. Percussionist Michael Davidson keeps things moving along with fleet footwork and fast hands—adding copious amounts of ride-bell bearing slams and breakdowns to tracks like “No Salvation” and “Empty Hands,” where “Worm” kicks off with his feet racing, only to drop into a tom-heavy, groove tinted salvo of two-steppy terror. Where Davidson is peppy and fast paced, bassist William Quintana keeps perfect pace with him—and where Davidson drops into devastating breakdowns, Quintana is there to add layer after layer of rumbling, low, filth to each earth-shaking smack of Davidson’s kick drum. The slow, dirging “Casket” is an excellent example of the two working together in dynamic perfection—building up from an ominous introduction only to plunge the listener six feet under with guitarist Andrew Badziong’s blunt, meaty guitar work. If you can imagine being beat to death by thirty-pound sledgehammers made of raw meat, then you can begin to imagine Badziong’s fretwork throughout “Casket” and indeed, all of No Salvation. Badziong makes every breakdown and beatdown feel like it will be the listener’s last—however, he doesn’t abuse them, spreading them out between bits of scathing, sinister riffs until—finally—the end of “Casket” is the blow that caves in the listener’s head. Zero’s trio of tremendous instrumentalists provide a refreshing display of riff-driven heaviness in a tightly-knit and well-written package, even if No Salvation’s short runtime makes the listener want more.
I don’t know about you, but when I learned Extortionist’s Benjamin Hoagland was the voice behind Zero’s madness, I thought I knew exactly what to expect. As it happens, I was dead wrong. Hoagland’s vocals on No Salvation see him dwelling much more in the murky depths of his sprawling range; take the EP’s title track for example. “No Salvation” sees him dominating primarily with a punchy, pissed-off low bellow that soars upwards into a shrill shout just long enough to catch the listener totally off guard. Hoagland dances back and forth across his range throughout the entirety of Zero’s breakout EP—however, his intent seems not so much as to strike awe into the listener, but to use whatever is at his disposal to create what it, simply put, some of the hardest breakdowns, beatdowns and slams the listener has ever heard. The full-bodied (by Zero’s standard) “Lamentations 4:11” is a great example of this. Hoagland’s use of varying vocal styles adds intensity to every second of the song, making it two minutes of neck-snapping insanity that the listener won’t have seen coming.
While Zero may have a name that implies worthlessness or emptiness, No Salvation is anything but. Rather, the EP’s title is dead on—as the EP is a densely packed display of deafening aggression that will rend the listener’s ears clean from their head. However beefy, bold and brutalizing the EP is, however, is slightly cast asunder by how short the release itself actually is. With heaviness written so well, the slightly-over-ten-minute runtime needs to be replayed several times for the listener to get their fix. While wanting more of an album is hardly a grounds to criticize it, one can’t help but feel that Zero’s debut would stand stronger among 2016’s jam-packed year if it were just a touch longer. At the end of the day, however, Zero spend all eleven-or-so minutes beating away at the listener with nothing but pure lethal intent—scraping, clawing, bludgeoning at them with such ferocity that salvation is surely out of the question.
For Fans Of: Varials, Deity, Drowning, Sustenance
By: Connor Welsh