Third albums are notoriously difficult for bands, but Swedish death metallers Zonaria have spent a good 13 years perfecting their craft – even if wholesale line-up changes made preparations for the recording process somewhat more difficult than they ideally should have been.
In this case, any worries are quickly cast aside, as ‘Arrival Of The Red Sun’ – the band’s first album for Listenable – is a damn fine of high-powered modern metal, combining elements of power, death and groove to great effect. For evidence of this, you need look no further than the opening salvo of ‘A Lullaby For Those Still Alive’ and the title track, which quickly prove that Zonaria have moved slightly left of field of the pure death metal sound exhibited on their first two albums – and especially on their 2008 sophomore, ‘The Cancer Empire’. Yes, it’s still very much rooted in DM sensibilities, not least through Emanuel Isaksson’s powerful drumming and Simon Berglund’s growling vocals (which, by and large, are remarkably clean and distinct – a harkening back to the band’s power metal roots, perhaps?), but there is a definite leaning towards a groove metal sound: how much of a contribution the recruitment of former Five Finger Death Punch axeman Caleb Bingham made to this slight change of course would be interesting to discuss.
The songwriting is mature, with each of the ten tracks well-structured and plenty of use of that all-important mix of light and shade that too many modern DM bands screw up all too easily: the brutal blastbeating is underpinned with luxurious atmospherics and the violence of the likes of ‘Face My Justice’ counterparted by almost orchestral guitar work, courtesy of the always impressive Emil Nyström. The band are not afraid to go full pelt when it is needed, such as on the pure DM beatdowns of ‘Liberation Zero’ and ‘My Vengeance’ (which could easily stand toe-to-toe with anything Children Of Bodom have produced on their last couple of albums) or the sheer aggression of ‘Gunpoint Salvation’, but are also not afraid to ease back off the accelerator and – even on the heavier songs, such as those mentioned, the Amon Amarth-esque ‘Desert Storm’ or the anthemic ‘Full Spectral Dominance’ – let the melodies build the songs to even more impressive heights.[8.5/10]
1. A Lullaby For Those Still Alive
2. Arrival Of The Red Sun
3. Desert Storm
4. Face My Justice
5. Full Spectrum Dominance
6. Gunpoint Salvation
7. Liberation Zero
8. My Vengeance
9. Silent Holocaust
10. The Blood That Must Be Paid
‘Arrival Of The Red Sun’ is out now on Listenable.