Artist: No Zodiac
Album: Altars of Impurity
The tables have turned; everything once deemed pure in the world has become poison—the holy and sacred is contaminated and putrid. Churches reduced to pestilent bastions of hatred and bigotry—preaching hate and disapproval, every word said and syllable spoken more treacherous and tedious than the last. They thrive on fear, flourish on disorder. The world is in a state of spiritual decay, and where there was once hope, there is now…nothing; hollow, void and null nothingness. The entire universe, it seems, finds itself prostrated before an Altar of Impurity
And No Zodiac are behind it, arms spread wide, embracing the chaos and insanity.
The band’s Siege Records debut, Altars of Impurity, is every bit the picture of powerful, no-holds-barred, world-ending and jaw-dropping brutality that one might expect from this Arizona-based, ultra-aggressive onslaught. Refusing to slow down after the release of their critically acclaimed, skull-crushing release Eternal Misery, the band are back and—somehow—manage to one-up their prior ten-ton terror with a twenty-ton juggernaut of jarring, lurid—yet magnificent and catchy—follow-up. Altars of Impurity is punishment at its finest; combining atmosphere with awe-inspiring amounts of slamming, sinister brutality and an unending arsenal of hatred, No Zodiac do exactly what they do best—obliterate everything in sight.
Altars of Impurity is violence distilled—take whatever album, band, sound or song you might have heard previously that took that title and push it aside, because that throne now belongs to none other than No Zodiac. With every deafening, bright ping of Erik Bartow’s snare drum and every crushing chug from the guitars of Brent Gutierrez and Jonathan “JJ” Corirossi, the listener is plunged deeper and deeper in the bowels of hell itself. This is as true as the anthemic, thrashy and riff-driven opener, “Santisima Muerte” as it is of the dark and dismal “Sigil of Aciel,” the latter of which sees bassist Jeff Boozer’s thick, grisly tone adding depth and heft to every spine-shattering, mind-melting chug and eviscerating, sharp riff. In this manner, the band bounce back and forth between relentless, hammering heaviness and quick, fun fretwork that confidently strides a fine line between thrash-influenced metal and raw, meaty heavy hardcore. But—as the listener quickly learns—that’s just the beginning. While No Zodiac spend plenty of time throughout the first three to four songs adding in fretwork that could bring a paraplegic to two-step, as the album carries on, so does the dense and devastating aggression. Bartow’s drumming gets a little less flashy and a little more furious with every second that ticks by, working with Boozer on songs like the ten-ton “Entombed” to do just that: bury the listener beneath a sequence of slam, heavy-hardcore and beatdown influenced breakdowns that leave no hope for survival. It’s at the closing portion of “Entombed” that No Zodiac have put the listener (still breathing, mind you) in their grave; they spend the rest of Altars of Impurity burying them in it. While “Penance” is a slight change of pace—a divergence into the relative ethereal considering the unbearable aggression prevalent in Gutierrez and Corirossi’s crushing guitars and Bartow’s brutalizing drums—that doesn’t last very long into the album closer, “Population Control.” Simply put, “Population Control” is the way to end an album. Period. With a peppy, punchy start that quickly decays into morbid, murderous and malevolent brutality, this track sees No Zodiac at the top of an empire they spent the last thirty minutes building; and the reign with cruelty and a crushing leaden fist.
To speak of a “leaden fist,” however, is to speak of the belligerent, abrasive and unending oppression inflicted upon the listener by the vocals and lyrics of frontman Rolando Hernandez. Hernandez’s gruff, grisly mid-range growls on “Satisima Meurte” set the stage for his unwieldy, ungodly low bellows on songs like “Entombed,” and the catchy-yet-cruel and unusual lyrics that bring “Population Control” to a close—so if you think the first glimpses you might have gotten at Altars of Impurity are those of horror and atrocity, then you haven’t seen anything yet. While Hernandez might not draw upon a complete range of shrill shrieks, high-pitched pig squeals and absurd vocal gimmicks that many bands with hints and flashes of slam might, he makes up for it with unbridled, unrivaled and almost-unbearable intensity. Throughout “Sigil of Aciel” and “The Tribulation,” Hernandez is the anthropomorphism of fear and fury combined. That doesn’t change on “Entombed,” and only just lightens up on “Penance,” only to—in keeping with the rest of No Zodiac’s musical dynamic—crank up the heat and heaviness for the last two tracks. Hernandez takes the musical misanthropy abundant on Altars of Impurity and makes it even more diabolical, giving it a flair of hellfire that not even Satan himself could handle.
Altars of Impurity is like a trainwreck or a twelve-car pile-up; not in the sense that it’s, well, a wreck—but in the sense that it’s unquestionably lethal and one of those things that, once you hear it, you can’t stop hearing it. It is heaviness that seeps into your brain and melts your spinal cord, dissolving your ability to think and function like a normal human being. No Zodiac have once more proven that they are capable of brutality that cannot be matched—neither by weight or heaviness, but by creative and unique touches from genres spanned by space and time. With thrash and hard-hitting contemporary hardcore adding in the gaps between bone-busting beatdown and relentless, metallic fury, Altars of Impurity is an album that will have all of heavy music prostrating before it before they even know what hit them.
For Fans Of: World of Pain, Easy Money, Bent Life, Gunishment, Cold Hard Truth
By: Connor Welsh