Album cover with a bunch of medieval knights fighting.

Local Review: Zodiac Killer – Bonded by Morbid Brutality

Local Music Reviews

Zodiac Killer
Bonded by Morbid Brutality
Street: 4.20
Zodiac Killer = Sepulture + Death + Sunami 

Perhaps the most interesting (or more appropriately, confounding) thing about the Hardcore genre is the lack of deviation from a seemingly untouchable formula that’s been hailed as the meta since the conception of the culture. That being said, every once in a while an ambitious artist comes along that nurses the dying horse back to life and takes it for a ride. Zodiac Killer’s newest release, Bonded By Morbid Brutality, rightfully places them among those of the new wave who’ve decided to revive that poor old horse and give it a second wind. 

While arguably housing some of the most complex songwriting Zodiac Killer has ever undertaken, Bonded By Morbid Brutality also introduces a thematic, black metal fantasy feel to the relatively true-to-form hardcore from their previous releases, which to this listener is probably the most endearing quality of this album. There’s never a point where you don’t feel as if you are under siege by flesh devouring goblins. The dichotomy of objectives from song to song is also a super fun aspect of the work (ie: Nox Mortis – black metal/doomy/hardcore fusion and Lord of Chaos – death metal/hardcore stompage) and leaves little to be desired from any heavy music fan in terms of variety. However, it wouldn’t be a Zodiac Killer album without the glorious chugs we all know and love. “Ladder to Hell” goes off like a medieval firebomb, blasting you onto the wall and leaving an invading party of orcs to two-step on your scorched remains. Same goes for the first track on the album, “Torn In Two,” Unbridled brutality. Despite the interesting song names that may or may not hint at a chronological connection between each other, I can confidently say that it’s not necessary to listen in any particular order as the storytelling, while vivid and grotesque, doesn’t seem like the top priority of Zodiac Killer’s compositions en masse.    

One issue I have with Bonded By Morbid Brutality is its brevity, which AILS me. Six songs after four long years is like finding an oasis after wandering the desert for weeks, but as you get closer the mirage fades and there’s a half empty bottle of dasani baking in the sun (don’t get me wrong though, you sure do appreciate the shit out of that steaming hot bev). The remedy I’ve turned to is to think of it as a blessing in disguise, quality always trumps quantity in this medium and personally, I’d rather a stimulating smaller release than a shabby large one. A more personal but equally inflaming qualm is the mixing. Albeit the album sounds great, don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the sound especially when I look at the album on its own. But when I look at the previous releases of Zodiac Killer I can’t help but feel as if they sacrificed a little fuzz and grit for a cleaner sounding recording. Which is fine, but I’ve always been a fan of bigger sounding guitars even at the arguably justifiable consequence of quieter drums.

All in all, Bonded By Morbid Brutality stands up to, and even higher than, Zodiac Killer’s other releases as well as a good amount of other modern hardcore in terms of its creative prowess in genre fusion and excellent vocals/instrumentation. If you have any interest in storming castles, trebuchets, taking a look into the thoughts of those who sharpen their swords at the edge of the treeline or crowd killing, I’d say this album is for you. –CJ Hanck

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