Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zud: The Good, the Bad and the Damned (2013)

The Other Portland

If you don’t come from a state with a small population and no metal scene to speak of, you probably can’t understand how excited I was to listen to a band from Maine. (And no, small European nations probably can’t relate either.) Maine also has a somewhat Scandinavian geography and a climate that makes Scandinavian winters look like a joke.

Zud hails from Thompson's Point (Portland), Maine, and they have the utmost good taste to work a symbol of their home into their logo in the form of moose antlers. It looks badass, and as I’ve mentioned before, black metal should give you a sense of place. That doesn’t carry over into the music on full-length The Good, the Bad and the Damned, but the first barrage of metal here is good enough to make you forget about that. It’s a rocking form of black metal reminiscent of early Venom and recent Darkthrone, with some badass heavy metal guitar solos and a few death metal parts thrown in for good measure. So far, so good.

But, guys, why did you keep playing so long? With the exception of the very rare “At War with Satan,” this kind of raw and dirty black ‘n’ roll is supposed to go on for, at most, 3 minutes per song. “Skull Shaped Bell” is a whopping 12:41, but could have been markedly improved by cutting down to 2:41.

The other three songs on the record commit the same sin. The run 8:24, 9:41, and 9:15 in length, but 6 minutes could have been cut out of any one of them. And, to be quite fair, none of the other songs are on par with the first one. They’re all fine, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not on the same level. By the end, they start to lose that black ‘n’ roll identity in favor for an artsy, Portland, Oregon feel, but the transition feels both accidental and incomplete. It ends up suffering from a severe lack of identity, and grabs your attention for maybe a total of 10 minutes of its 41 minute run.

“Shorter!” is something I often repeat to bands. Yes, guys, I know there are great bands who write 20-minute masterpieces. But until you understand that length is rarely good for its own sake, you will never be Opeth/Agalloch/whoever else you want to name-drop. If I have another recurring theme, it’s that nobody should use samples unless their last name is Zombie, and, again, Zud is one of the worst offenders. The samples are mostly unintelligible, where intelligible are inane, and simply don’t belong here.

Those first few minutes of that first song are really, really awesome. I can’t help but think Zud could make a great black ‘n’ roll band, or maybe even a pretty good band in the Cascadian milieu. Maybe, just maybe, they might have the balls and the chops to be the band to bridge the gap. But this middle-of-the-road jam session isn’t going to do it.

The Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars


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