Zubzero – Lost Sun (Demo)


Dutch metal groovers, Zubzero, released their last record in the year Manchester United were the champions of Europe. That was back in 2008 when they were a quintet and had Wytze Fopma on vocals for their Premonition EP. A lot has changed since then. Metalcore struggles to remain relevant; blackened thrash is resurgent; death metal continues to embrace the avant-garde; black metal has even more sub-genres; and the word “djent” no longer sounds like an obscure Belgian town on the Luxembourg border. For reasons unclear, the Draaisma brothers of Lars (drums) and Dirk (guitars), decided it was time to return after more than a decade away from the scene with a new vocalist and the same gear from the mid-2000s. A two-track demo might be a cautious way to reintroduce your music to a globalised underground, but Zubzero show that they still mean business.

New vocalist, Ferdinand Wanders, is their third since 2010 and the first to record a note in the last twelve years. The choice appears to be the right one on the evidence here. Ferdinand is a veteran of the death metal underground in the Netherlands, who brings a muscular malevolence to the band’s drop-tuned thrash metal. Opener, ‘Lost’, mixes terror and testosterone and throbs along on a meaty guitar tone that sounds like its creator stopped listening to metal in the interregnum between Sepultura and Soulfly. The mix is muddy and lacks the treble frequencies that would normally round off the ghost track in a demo recording. But that’s the beauty of this CD – you hear the rehearsal room and the raw energy of a live set. Imagine mid-90s Biohazard fronted by a strident David Vincent (Morbid Angel), and you have the key to the Zubzero formula.

Of course, anything formulaic has negative connotations, but Zubzero are not a predictable band. Their refusal to lay down a conventional structure in ‘Liquid Sun’ works in their favour. Again, it’s the type of down-tuned metal that deviated away from thrash in the 1990s due to the looser guitar tunings and lower vocal registers. Guitarists from that era will testify that it’s harder to achieve the rapid crunch of the strings when they have a floppier resonance. The emergence of the custom-built eight-string guitar for Meshuggah in the mid-2000s solved this problem and changed the thrash sound once again. Zubzero’s time away from the scene means they missed out on this evolution, and this is a good thing in an age where most bands copy the Swedish pioneers. The proto-death metal growls of Ferdinand Wanders have a blood-thirsty rasp that can summon the vengeful dead. Listen to the bass cackles of Herman Mulder underneath the nasty distortion of the guitar riffs. These could easily lose their potency in a ProTools clean-up operation.

Zubzero have every reason to keep things low-key until they feel ready to release a comeback EP or album, but their new demo showcases a band ready to make the transition with a new vocalist and a new purpose.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 24/05/2022

Record Label: Stichting Metalization

Standout track: Liquid Sun

Suggested Further Listening: Nervochaos – Dug Up (Diabolical Reincarnations) (2021), Once Human – The Life I Remember (2015), Last Piss Before Death – LPBD (2022)