Feel the FireIt takes some serious balls to put the words a Long Road to Nowhere in the title of your album, when it’s a 76 minute slab of progressive doom metal. The jabs write themselves. But Zatokrev’s The Bat, the Wheel, and a Long Road to Nowhere is so damn good, they don’t need to worry about that. It may be exactly what you need to replace the hole that Opeth left in your life.
That paragraph could lead you in all sorts of wrong directions, so let’s clear some things up. The label “progressive doom” usually does not bode well, typically signifying some kind of psych-instrumental jam session, but that couldn’t be further from what Zatokrev has accomplished here. They’re not progressive metal in that sense, but in the sense that’s used to describe bands like Opeth or Enslaved. In other words, it’s not aimless noodling; it’s a series of interconnected but radically different parts creating a dynamic whole.
The second misconception I may have given you is that their sound is Opethian. It’s not. Or, if it is, that would be but a small wavelength of a very broad sonic spectrum. How broad? “Angels of Cross” sounds kind of like Triptykon fronted by an evil Les Claypool. “Rodeo with Snakes” is a metallic Western song. “Medium” could be the three-way collaboration of Boris, Sunn O))), and Static-X, with some Wayne Static-like vocals and a semi-ambient collapse in the middle. All over the record, it’s held together by strained, screaming vocals and lurching, death/doom riffs—many of which are extremely memorable. But each track cuts in a slightly different direction, pulling in two or three different (but familiar) directions and coloring it with varying shades of fear, pain, comfort, paranoia, light, and dark. It’s even a bit too reductionist to call this doom metal, as they do speed things up quite a bit.
Consider “9.” It has very memorable rhythm riffs and infectious leads, and is dynamic enough to venture into doom and softer territory. It could easily be the highlight of a lesser album, but here, it doesn’t stand out.
I don’t believe I can do this record justice. It has come completely out of nowhere (presumably on a long road). OK, Candlelight isn’t exactly “nowhere,” but for me, this is the biggest surprise triumph of 2012.
The Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars
Preorder/Buy The Bat, the Wheel, and a Long Road to Nowhere (available in US on January 8)