Five years and something ago, two Canadian musicians joined forces under the Zaum banner with one goal: to create a form of Doom that trespasses all boundaries and limitations. Kyle Alexander McDonald (Shevil) and Christopher Lewis (Iron Giant) created a first album in 2014, which was the impressive Oracles via I Hate Records (link: see below). I was enormously impressed (although not everybody did agree; yet then again, what do I care about anyone else’s opinion, for ‘liking’ Music gets influenced by personal, subjective ideas, feelings and thoughts) by their unique approach and the injection of influences and inspirations by the ancient Middle-Eastern culture, history and religions. Back then, they called their style ‘Middle Eastern Mantra Doom’, and that was not such a bad idea. Almost one year later, a collaboration of some (smaller) labels brought forth the split Himalaya To Mesopotamia (with another psychedelic – or is it psychotropic? – act from Canada, Shooting Guns), and in Autumn 2016 I Hate Records released the second full length, Eidolon (which never reached me; still causing tears on my soft cheeks). Unfortunately, things faded away in silence…
Enter 2018. The duo now officially joined forces with Nawal Doucette, a (beautiful) musician, belly dancer and yoga teacher, to spice up the visual aspect. Anyway, Zaum entered the studio to have their third full album recorded. This one, called Divination, got released on both compact disc, cassette and vinyl after Zaum signed to one of the oldest (almost three decades of being around, can you imagine) (Extreme) Metal labels from France, Listenable Records (welcome back, mes amis!). The result is a three-track album with, once again, excellent cover artwork.
As usual, the compositions are very lengthy. Divination opens with Relic (18:26), which starts very beautiful, mesmerizing and dreamlike. The intro is based on Oriental themes, with fine female voices, tribal instruments, South-Asian melodies and some additional elements. It is ritual / spiritual, hypnotic and even transcendental-meditative in nature. After four minutes, things slowly evolve, with throat singing and bass guitar appearing on the scene. And then, at five minutes, Zaum do what their ‘being’ is meant to be: playing Doom! The floating bass guitar melodies are accompanied by these fabulous drum patterns (heavy-weighted and slowly hammering), the typifying gloomy vocals of Kyle, and lots of additional elements. It’s Doom Metal, Stoner, Psychedelica and Mantric Music in symbiosis, trespassing the limiting borders of all these genres. This track – and the same goes for both other ones too, evidently – permanently evolves and progresses, with so many things to experience. Listen to that frenzy intermezzo halfway the track, for instance, with these sampled additions. Or the sudden acceleration at twelve minutes and something. Or the harsher vocals (also second half of this composition), the use of sitar, the samples, the shrilling string molestation… The somewhat repetitive character guides the listener into psychic hypnosis and mental paralysis.
Pantheon (originally written during the Eidolon recording sessions, by the way) is, with its nine minutes of length, a ‘short’ piece, but it impresses as from the start. This track is heavily droning and sludgy, with that nice equilibrium of bass guitars and sitar-alike string-work, varying (and unusual) vocal chords, and that massive rhythm section that colours the whole thing even more dark-purple. The lead melodies sounds very exotic, somewhere mingling Arab, Persian and Hindi influences in a trancelike manner.
The third creation on this album, Procession, goes on in the vein of both former tracks, and at the same time it goes even further. Flutes and violin enter (if I’m not mistaken), the drum patterns are simply megalithic, the bass lines are as abyssal-dark as, eh, something very dark that lurks in the abyss, I think, and the voices sound both evocative and mocking. Adjectives like ‘monumental’, ‘cosmic’, ‘hallucinating’, ‘meditative’, ‘astral’, ‘ritual’ and ‘wow’ (indeed!) are no stranger to this exceptional piece of mind-f*cking and brain-twisting sonic alienation.
Old World Mantra Doom for the twisted and the open-minded… Recommended if you like stuff à la Shevil (evidently), Bong, Sum Of R, Snailking, Earth, Sourvein, Yob, Sunn O))) or – especially – Om.