Zonaria: Arrival of the Red Sun

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Zonaria: Arrival of the Red Sun
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Zonaria: Arrival of the Red Sun
Melodic Death Metal
Kaotoxin Records
August 14th, 2012
Release length: 40:07
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Sweden’s Melodic Death Metal group Zonaria are considered “the saviors of Swedish Death Metal,” at least according to the press release that accompanied the review copy of their latest effort, Arrival of the Red Sun. The band formed back in 2001, issuing three demos before being picked up for their 2007 debut Infamy and the Breed. Now, they find themselves signed to the well respected Listenable Records for their third album, hitting store shelves a good four years after 2008’s The Cancer Empire. But, does Zonaria live up to this press-oriented hype, or does this effort not put their best foot forward to show why they apparently deserve such a title?

Arrival of the Red Sun has a a pretty heavy sound to it. Everything is pretty crisp, with exception to the cymbals that can sometimes sound washed out, and generally masked or drowned out by the rest of the music, including the mix of booming and tighter snares against a solid click of the bass kicks that roars through the mix straight to the forefront. The bass really stands out at a louder volume and deep, rich tone that accompanies the already deeper guitar riffs and distortion. There are keyboards present, but for the most part they are greatly restricted. It’s hard to tell if you’re hearing them in some of the main verses, but the chorus almost always pulls them forward for the sake of establishing an environment, sometimes pushing a Symphonic approach that can tie things up nicely. The vocals match the depth with a superb range that tackles low growls, to the common Melodic Death Metal higher pitched snarl, both packing a good deal of enthusiasm that isn’t always shared or captured in the recording from the other instruments.

Of course, there’s plenty of great tracks present that capitalize off that heavier sound and often make banging your head along more of an instinctive event that a voluntary one. “Silent Holocaust” has a great deal of enthusiasm all around, and the chugging riffs, backed nicely with the deeper bass, really present a commanding environment that segways into the slightly lighter melodic chorus flawlessly. “Full Spectrum Dominance” carries a good deal of authority to the music, especially in the riffs. The gang chants in the background a little over two minutes in really push the marching attitude of the song, and the additional keyboards that come into the main verses later helps enrich the experience, though doesn’t necessarily make the bite any stronger. “Face My Justice” is another great song thanks largely to the music building to grand, nearly epic levels amid the atmospheric performances. The lighter chorus with some harmonized vocals against the main growls work with the environment quite well, and the shifting in the drum work is quite impressive despite never really coming at the listener too fast.

“Desert Storm” has a noticeable drive behind it fueled by anger and hostility. The song sticks to the group’s constant mid-tempo approach, but the bass kicks are utilized a lot more with machine gun flurries against the more intense passages, which include the grim atmosphere of the chorus, creating some of the tightest material the album has to offer. While the song may fade out, this intensity is carried over into “A Lullaby for Those Still Alive.” It offers a rich environment throughout with a similar driven passion to the music that the heavier quality captures perfectly. Headbanging becomes a mandate thanks to the infectious rhythm from the drums and the bass, and the haunting lead chords throughout, as well as some well placed higher pitch notes from the lead guitar throughout, making it a memorable offering that puts the group’s talents on display, showcasing the kind of solid material they are capable of, though not always recognized.

Those two tracks are really where the album starts to turn around, as the rest have their perks that keep them from growing stale. “Arrival of the Red Sun” mixes mid-tempo and slower paced material well with some additional keyboards to create a commanding, yet desolate atmosphere, but eventually it starts to feel dragged out towards the end. While just over three and a half minutes long, the closing jumps in and out of the varied speeds many times before finally utilizing simpler chords to try to create a climax suiting to how it all started, though it lacks the same impact by the end. “The Blood That Must Be Paid” is a decent, aggressive song full of hostility and crushing music, though the chorus relies on the atmosphere from the chords instead of the keyboards. This is fine, but eventually it suffers from the same problem “Arrival of the Red Sun” has, gradually feeling drug along with some less than engaging material towards the end.

Zonaria is undeniably a band that is worth keeping an eye on, but what Arrival of the Red Sun has in store for the listener depicts a group far from being saviors for the style. The mixture of traditional Swedish Death Metal foundations with Melodic Death Metal hooks is handled in a way to create rich, atmospheric experiences that will stay with you even after the album reaches its end. Unfortunately, not all the songs here are as good as you would hope, sometimes coming off as if the band is just pushing the song length despite being maybe three and a half minutes long in the first place. For fans of this brand of music, the refined approach will surely grab their attention. If you haven’t heard of Zonaria yet, then take the time to give Arrival of the Red Sun a shot, as it is still a strong album you won’t soon regret spending time with.

01. Arrival of the Red Sun – 3:48
02. Silent Holocaust – 3:43
03. Gunpoint Salvation – 4:29
04. Liberation Zero – 3:52
05. The Blood That Must Be Paid – 4:31
06. Desert Storms – 3:55
07. A Lullaby to Those Still Alive – 3:38
08. Full Spectrum Dominance – 3:43
09. My Vengeance Remains – 4:16
10. Face My Justice – 4:12
Overall Score: 8/10
Zonaria (band)
Zonaria (logo)
Digital review copy of this release provided by Listenable Records via Clawhammer PR.