Review: Zhrine – Unortheta

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If you’re not already au fait with what’s happening in Iceland’s thriving metal scene, there’s never been a better time to delve in than now, no matter what your musical proclivities may be. Using this debut release from Zhrine as a stepping-stone I think you’ll be able to explore a substantial cross-section of the key constituents that make the isolated Nordic island such an interesting place for metal and music in general.

Zhrine (formerly Shrine) are a four-piece band who formed from the ashes of death metal act Gone Postal. Their lineup includes drummer Stefán who has previously worked with Nađra and guitarist/vocalist Nökkvi of Svartidauđi fame. Some early incarnations of a few of these tracks were present on Gone Postal’s last demo, so the members have had some time to work on them, and it really shows. Each track on this album is densely layered with all manner of riffs, mood and intrigue. Stab play below and prepare to be taken away.

After a sombre procession of delicate delay-tinged clean notes, the veil of night lifts to reveal a cloud-sheltered day. The once graceful timbre is transposed directly into a distorted state, revealing a searing melancholy. Before it has a chance to reach the heavens the swirling upheaval is dispersed, as it submissively gives way to the arrival of furious blasting. You are now only half-way into the first track (“Utopian Warfare”) from Zhrine’s debut album Unortheta. This is but the beginning. The next 35 minutes are a veritable deluge of nightmarish blackened death, set atop a captivating atmosphere replete with melody that remains beautiful while being directly opposed to the traces of dissonance.

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The heavier parts of the album certainly bear a superficial resemblance to Svartidaudi, yet replace a lot of the narcotic doom-laden aspects of their sound with an elegant but somehow piercing ambience, utilising some post-metal-esque sensibilities to intersperse texture throughout the prevailing maelstrom. The vocals are seemingly roared from a distance for the most part, with some variety achieved through some slightly higher-pitch screams. The guitarists cover a great deal of ground. Zhrine have managed to mix many of the elements that make their countrymen musically unique; this is achieved through harnessing the riff-based approach of Sinmara, the dirge of the aforementioned Svartidaudi along with some of the rancorous harmonies and chaos of MisÞyrming. Using tension and release alongside outright brutality, their note choices are remarkably astute. The same could be said for their ability to layer arpeggiated chords with ringing open notes that rub and interlace, sometimes wrangling for the top position like snakes entwined in combat, other times blending harmoniously and forming a unified wall of sound much greater than the sum of its parts.

A strong dynamic is forged between the intensity of the more aggressive sounds and the near-minimalist (by comparison) calmer passages. The remorseful drawing of strings that rounds out “Spewing Gloom” (track 2) captures some of the grief that you’d expect to find on a Disemballerina album, whereas the intro to “World” (track 4) has some haunting twanging sounds that sound like they belong on a Numinous-style seque and were most likely created by picking strings behind the nut. Little experimentations like these help to give the album even more memorable moments and differentiate it from the swathe of new releases filling your ears.

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Unortheta‘s strikingly stark artwork was created by Zbigniew M. Bielak, who has also penned the covers for Deströyer 666‘s latest Wildfire and Gorguts’ much anticipated new album Pleiades Dust. This album has the potential to open up a number of ears, possibly giving them the mindset to further explore the other gems of the area which may have eluded them previously. Through remaining dark but never seeming impenetrably opaque, Zhrine’s Unortheta offers a gateway into this mysterious realm, and thus, should be seen as a resounding success.

Since first starting this review I’ve left it for several days, hit replay numerous times and tried to be critical of this album, and honestly I just can’t think of a way it could be improved. Unortheta has much more than the variety of hooks needed to garner immediate enjoyment, but also has the depth of composition to render it a grower which, through time and further immersion, will sink deep into your subconscious. So as some of you may have guessed by now, after the Skáphe² (review), Unortheta is the second Icelandic album of 2016 that I’ll be bestowing with…

5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

NEW_TOILETSCALE_5_of_5


(Image via, via)

  • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

    Nice review LizardKing! There were some namedrops that caught my attention and of course your 5/5 has me interested.

    • i dunno what goes on in that animal’s ears, but i seem to have the same thing. in lizard we trust!

  • Surprised there isn’t someone on Psychopathic Records named Zhrine.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      Azylum, maybe

      • Zhrine Da Killa’s new album “Volume 1: Tales From Tha Azylum” out now.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          *puts hatchet guy sticker on rear windshield*

          • Dubs

            *Slams liter of Faygo*

  • COAL ROLL

    Is this Finland or Iceland?

    • it’s not America, that’s all i need to know. *flush*

      • Geography by the stereotype of Americans:

        US **FUCK YEAH! MC’DONALDS AND DOLLARS!!!**->rest of the world where dwells chinese, mexicans, arabs, russians and africans.

  • Lizarbro, I’m interested in this release based on your description of their use of dynamics and calmer sections.

    Great job on this review. You’re clearly on the pro leagues with your writing.

  • Joaquin Stick

    Dang, I like this quite a bit. Instrumentation is very pleasing. It seems like they are not so confident in the vocals though, but I think they could be higher in the mix.

    • Eliza

      The vocals are not the best thing about this, but I don’t find them distracting from the overall experience.

      • Joaquin Stick

        I think as the album goes on they get a little better. The sound great in a few of the later tracks. I agree about the first one or two though.

        • Eliza

          Yes, in fact, the more I listened to this album, the more I enjoyed it. I think it’s genuinely great.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      They’re being swallowed by teh darkness

      • COAL ROLL

        that’s good for music like this

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Angry Metal Guy describes it well “It’s an album where lyrics are inconsequential and instead voices become instrumental and atmospheric, working in tandem with the the music to convey messages of chaos, discomfort, desolation and solitariness.”

  • COAL ROLL

    The vox in this are pretty mean.

  • Dubs

    The Ulcerate is strong with this album. Well done, lizard. Solid review. Your words are good words.

    • Lizardbro is an amazing writer. I hope I can read his upcoming crime novel: “Blood in the Lizard Cage”.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      > Frank heard the name “Ulcerate”.
      > Frank’s interest is piqued.

  • Woah, there are a whole lot of rad names being thrown around in this review: Sinmara, Svartidauđi, and Nađra. The guitar playing is very reminiscent of that of Svartidauđi for sure, even the vocals are as well. It’s the drumming that makes this sound a lot more death metal than black metal. So far so good.

    • Dubs

      Definitely more death than black.

    • do you think the qualifier “black” is thrown around too much these days? i suspect it, but you know a lot more about that genre than most of us, figured i would get your thoughts

      • RJA

        it’s what all the cool kids are into so……

        • i think there’s a little truth in what you just said. i wonder if some bands are adding that label to get more exposure. oh well, i’m gonna seal my lips and jam!

          • RJA

            yea, that was absolutely a kidding/not kidding statement.

      • I think the “Blackened” label gets thrown around a lot more now.

        • good call. my wording just needed a little adjustment!

          • TrickleDownOvTacoKvltRiff

            please tighten that word shit up a little bruh…

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        I never really got what actually constitutes for instance “Blackened DM”. I mean, is there a specific sound for that label?
        I know they were calling Behemoth “Blackened DM” even back when Demigod was released. Just sounded like DM to me.

        • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

          SUB GENRE LABEL NAME GAME GIVE GORAK HEADACKE!!!!!!!!!!

          • It’s all merol in the end, Gorak.

          • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

            MOAR MEROL!!!!!!!!!!!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I’m going to give Gorak an even bigger headache with the following task:

            Classify Akercocke.

          • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

            AKERCOCKE IS A GOOD!!!!!!!!!
            DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Point for Gorak.

          • Dave Vincent’s Perm

            Satanic electro post punk mixed with progressive black merol.

            EDIT: yeah maybe one day I will shut up about Akercocke

    • Eliza

      It sounds somewhere between black and death to me.

    • COAL ROLL

      they do a good job blending the two that’s for sure

  • Eliza

    I like it when an album presents a wide variety of different sounds, but doesn’t lose focus. This is definitely a strong effort. Good review too.

  • RJA

    I wasn’t completely sold on this upon first listen. but, this is a very fine review lacertilian and I’m sure I will give it another shot at some point. bravo.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    It seems Iceland is on a roll.

    • Indeed! Another interesting point to note is that all those bands shares at least one band member.

      I remember I read somewhere that they have to do it because they are a very small collective and there are mostly no drummers. Can’t remember the source, but believe me, I’m a half-elf.

      • No way Svartidauđi! We totally get Chad every third weekend. You’re every FOURTH weekend!

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Well, a lot of “regional” scenes have overlapping band members. Take a look at the Louisiana scene, the Chicago scene or the Finnish melodeath scene.

        I’d even believe you if you weren’t half-elf. You being half-elf is just a noice bonus.

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          Louisiana scene >>>>

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            You forgot a few >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            My apologies.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            That’s ok. We all make mistakes.

        • I think they pointed the lack of gigs and the overall geographic aspect on that article.

          I remember it was Celtic Frosty that shared the coverage, it was a blog or something like that in which they interviewed some Icelandic musicians and it was amazing to check in a more specific way how they operate and the diverse approaches they do in each project.

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        It’s really impressive that the small collective can make such diverse music. Yes, they share some of the same sounds, but they do a good job of creating identities for each band.

        • It must be an ardous process, you’re right noting that!

        • COAL ROLL

          I call that good business

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Good business is good.

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          I think the Iceland scene is doing a very good job at still being distinctive with the sounds all of these bands have. When you take a look at the Finnish melodeath scene, it’s actually just Insomnium and their autistic kid brothers (in terms of sound).

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            You haven’t payed any attention to the Finnish Melodeath scene have you? Apart from OG, only very few bands go for a sound reminiscent of Insomnium and OG shares a songwriter with them.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Kalmah for instance sounds a bit more frantic than OG and Insomnium, but there are some similarities to my ears.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Uhh… I really don’t see that comparison. I mean some similarities maybe, but nowhere nearly enough to lump into a derivative sound.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Yeah, you know, it’s been a long time since I listened to Kalmah.
            Insomnium and OG do sound a helluva lot alike; with the main difference that Insomnium (to my ears) is WAY better.

            I shall retract my previous statement that the Finnish melodeath scene is “samey” and apologize for jumping to conclusions, general stupidity, rustled jimmies…etc…etc…

          • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

            SEVENTH SWAMPHONY ROCKS!!!!!

          • FUCK YES! Love that record, Gorak!

            SMASH THOSE SWAMP PROFANATORS WITH ME!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcxlexAJycY

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Haha, perhaps not as much of a rustling jimmie than an astonishment.

          • No worries, no one’s rustled over here!

          • Tapir has been silently waiting for somebody to make this claim… then he will come change it all.

          • Tapir>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Not many would agree.

          • I know, I’m his only glimpse of hope in this imaginary world, I think.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Even though he shits on 3/4 of my musical tastes, he’s cool.

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            Only 3/4?

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Ha, probably more like 7/8. We both like prog.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I share more than a few likes with Tapir. He just has way more dislikes than I have.
            He’s even quite likeable when he shits all over a band or album I like, which is strange and it shouldn’t be like that, but it just is.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Pretty much the same here. He does it with grace and precision.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            That’s not correct.

            I’m EXTREMELY rustled whenever someone shits all over Crowbar.

          • I have a +2 protection on rustling! I can share my spell book.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            That depends on what do you expect in return.

          • A plane ticket to another country could be good, jajajaja!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            We can swap countries. Aren’t you from Venezuela? I could use some sun.

          • ¡Jojojojo! Someone wants to come to Venezuela?!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Which city are we speaking of?

          • Dubs

            Hellcaibo

          • <3 You truly understand my suffering. I wuv u, my brother.

          • Dubs

            I know.

          • Hellcaibo… I mean, Maracaibo.

            In this following photograph you can see a non-edited tentacle of our Lord and Saviour Cthulhu-Ramón González making his characteristic salute from the Lake of Hellcaibo.

            http://notiamanece.com/noticias/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/viernes-tromba-Lago-Maracaibo-Zulia_NACIMA20150918_0099_3.jpg

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Oh well uhm…

            Belgium and its shitty weather and even shittier terrorist attacks might not be all that bad after all…

          • We all have bad things in our respective places, anyways. I just hope for the best of each location we are.

            Enjoy the shitty weather. Be careful with the attacks. And continue to dwell with us, please.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Next month I’ll be in China anyways.

            If I first survive the Brussels train station, the Paris airport and the flight itself that is.

          • </3 My best of wishes, man!

          • CyberneticOrganism
          • I must disagree on the Finnish MDM scene, I think is way ahead of the Swedish right now. They have a very diverse palette of sounds, mixed with prog or doom in each project.

            Swallow the Sun, Amorphis and Insomnium are mostly the spearheads, but there are different other bands. Check out the last Barren Earth or Whispered, for example; very different bands not sounding like Insomnium at all.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Never really saw Amorphis and Swallow the Sun as straight-up melodeath. I really dig both bands though. I have quite a lot Amorphis stuff.

            Listened to Barren Earth in the past, but they really didn’t do anything for me.

          • There have been some killer melodic releases from Finland in these last years: Ghost Brigade, Insomnium, Kalmah, Amorphis, Mors Principium Est, Wolfheart…

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Listened to all of those bands with the exception of Ghost Brigade and all of them are good, but Insomnium and Amorphis are the only two bands out of that batch that really stick with me.

          • Is cool, matey. Last Amorphis was part of my favorite records of last year, too!!!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Their best since Silent Waters imho.

  • COAL ROLL

    that red vinyl, of which only 8 of 125 remain, sure is tempting

  • Good shit, just finished the album. I was very transfixed by the drumming throughout the listen. Dude is a hell of a drummer! Going to listen to this one some more for sure. This is one of those slow digesting albums.

    • COAL ROLL

      high five bro

    • Dubs

      Hey, psst. You may want to take a look at a song streaming on cvlt nation this morning.

      • I saw dat! Listened to the track twice this morning while I was getting prepped. Looks like this will be just as good as the demo if not better (I think better though). I did however like the excessive cavernous atmosphere on the demo, but I find this production to be much clearer. You can hear the riffs finally.

        • Dubs

          The production works quite well. Glad you saw it. I didn’t want to detract from the lizard’s excellent review here, but I figured you’d want to know if you didn’t.

        • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

          CAVERNOUS ATMOSPHERES>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    RIP Balls Mahoney.

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      I have no idea who that is, but I wish my surname was “Mahoney”.

      Irish sounding surnames >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • COAL ROLL

      who the fuck is balls mahoney

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        Former ECW wrestler.

      • having never heard that name before right now, i am convinced he was an amazing person.

        • Dubs

          Balls McNulty

          • Balls Bush

          • Dubs

            Balls Ballsnkill

          • BALLS ROLL

            I like where this is going

          • CyberneticOrganism

            *balls*

          • Dubs

            Cyballsnetic Ballsanism

          • ME GORAK KING OV CAVEMEN!!!

            ME BALLSAK????

  • Dubs

    This has been a killer year for debut albums, especially death metal debut albums.

    • Eliza

      And the year isn’t even halfway through done. I see good things in the horizon.

      • I prefer last year because I had a better connection at work and I could listen to nearly everything I wanted, jajajaja!!

        • Eliza

          Hopefully things will get better. It’s a pity to miss all the great music coming out.

    • BALLS ROLL

      So you’ve “dubbed” this as being death metal then?

      • Dubs

        Seems so! Still a lot of year left, though.

        • BALLS ROLL

          hopefully it does not change from DM to BM before the year is over

      • I find it to be just a more death metal version of Svartidauði really.

    • I really enjoyed that Necrot album yesterday. What death metal albums are you referring too?

      • Dubs

        Just off the top of my head, this one, Setentia, Qrixkuor, Altarage, Chthe’ilist…

        I’m certain I’m forgetting some.

        • Oh ok. Just curious. Didn’t really get into the Altarage and Chthe’ilist albums as much as I wanted too. That Qrixkuor album will be a favorite of mine for sure, I’m certain of it. Don’t know anything about Setentia.

          • Dubs

            The album was taken down temporarily, but it’s similar to Ulcerate and Mitochondrion.

          • Noted. I did really like the new Brutus album despite the production. Non stop blasting brutality!

            EDIT: Not a debut

          • Dubs

            Oh, I forgot to listen to that! Willowtip generally has good stuff, though.

          • Got my CD the other day. Good workout album.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I was a bit late to the Mitochondrion party. Only just listened to it a week ago. It was alright, but it didn’t blow me away as I expected it would do…

          • Dubs

            Which album?

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Parasignosis

          • Dubs

            That’s probably their best. Bummer.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I need to give this another listen.

          • Dubs

            Lol, you dudes don’t have to like it. I just think Mitochondrion is better than Ulcerate, personally.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Mitochondrion was a bit too Portalesque for my taste. Not bad at all, but Ulcerate’s sound pulls me in way better. Just a personal preference.

          • Dubs

            Ahhh, see, I like Portal more.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I don’t dislike them at all. Just not a major fan.

          • I got to be in the right mood for Portal. I will say that I do prefer Impetuous Ritual over Portal by a long shot though.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Both are fairly good. I don’t really listen to them all that often though. That muddy “wall of sound” style gets a bit tedious to me when I listen to it for more than a few songs.

          • Dubs

            Oh, you reminded me of another debut (I’m pretty sure the previous releases were just demos). Ritual Chamber.

          • Damn! That’s a good one for sure.

          • Dubs

            Boom. Knew I was forgetting some.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            When i first listened it didnt grab me at the time, but I’ve found that when i revist albums after sometime they can have a different effect on me.

          • imagine how music changes when KJM’ing around. (hint: it’s a huge enhancement)

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            KJMing? Ooooooooh…

            Well I really enjoy Altarage, so I figured another listen for Mitochondrian would be worth it

          • CT-12

            Saw Mito 2 weeks ago or so with Conan, fucking awesome show.

          • yes, it’s fantastic for folks who like this style of music.

          • Dubs

            You always have my back, Jimbo.

      • RJA

        That Enucleator is pretty good – thanks dude!

        • Hell yes, love that demo! Looking forward to getting the tape in the mail so I can hear those two other unreleased tracks.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Hey Lizzardwizzard I’m listening to this. At the final song now and I think this be a good.
    A worth of revisitation good.

  • Waynecro

    Thanks for the great review! This album fuckin’ rips!

  • Dear Lacetcetc.,
    I do not know quite how to feel about this album.
    Please send help whisky.
    Sincerely,
    Ricthy