Music Reviews

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Artist: Za La Thu (@)
Title: Ritual of the Abyss/77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Za La Thu is a ritualistic occult metal band from Enterprise, Alabama consisting of The Awakened One (instrumentation) and Katera (vocals). I know what you're thinking - Jeez, yet another black/death/doom metal band with occult overtones, ie, Black Sabbath, Morbid Angel, Burzum, Candlemass, etc., etc, insert name of your favorite satanic metal act...well, no, not really. The Awakened One has been on this path since 1995 and throughout the years the band name has changed from Muses of Chaos, DRALA, The Awakened One, The Inverted, Aethyria, Servants of Twilight and now ZÄ Lä Thü (pronounced ZAY-LAH-THEW). I don't know if there were any releases under those previous monikers, but what we're concerned with is the NOW, these two releases, 'Ritual of the Abyss', and '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156', which they call "demos", but are available for sale on their website, so I call them "product". Although they're home recordings, the sound quality isn't bad, just not as polished as they'd be in a professional ($$$) studio, but I'm not complaining. As I implied, this isn't your typical occult metal outfit, and although the music is guitar-based, also employed are Roland Guitar Synth, drum machines, sitar, sax, Udu drums, native flutes as well as other world music instruments.

The CDs (actually, CD-Rs) are really EPs, being just a few not very long tracks. The first CD,'Ritual of the Abyss', opens with an invocation by a famous occultist (no, not Crowley, but his personal secretary, Israel Regardie) on "Opening of the Portal" which instrumentally is a combination of metal and gothiness. There's quite a mixture of metal styles in the music, and although well played, tends to be a little chaotic. Za La Thu gets down to business in the next track, "Into the Void, Beyond the Sun" which instrumentally is more straight-ahead riff-based metal with dual vocals by The Awakened One and Catera. Lyrics are Ritual Magick-based, and nicely melodic. In fact, the track is more prog-metal than death, doom or black metal. I could see this going down a storm live. "One Star in Sight" is closer to death-doom-black metal with deep, growly, screamy vocals, but then it gets riff-fancy in the guitar leads halfway through. No bout a doubt it, The Awakened One has put his many years of basement practice to good use here honing his guitar chops. So that wraps up the first disc.

Second disc, '77+ (7+7)/7 +77=156' is way different. For one thing, Catera handles all the vocals. The music also seems more Goth. "Hail, Hail Babylon" makes few concessions to metal, being primarily synth-based. "Flame of Torture" is more in the metal-mode again, and although an okay track, doesn't have the impact of the opener, but it does have a sort of middle-eastern overtone. "Val-Kree" is really a strange tune. metal at the core, yet with a sitar lead and some clever changes and effective chanting. People looking for something really different should dig this. Before you know it, it's over, leaving you wanting more.

Definitely worth checking out, and probably worth buying too. They also have some pretty neat Za La Thu tee-shirts for sale on their website as well. The Awakened One made a good choice in adding Catera to Za La Thu, and I think they may still be looking for a drummer (adding a bass player and keyboardist might not be a bad idea either) but if you're thinking of applying, you might want to bone up on your occult texts, and I'm not talking about the Necronomicon or LeVay's Satanic drivel. These folks seem to be passionate and serious about what they're doing; posers be warned.



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