ZU

Metal Related / Avant-garde Metal / Non-Metal • Italy
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With their original line-up (since 1997) of drums (Jacopo Battaglia), bass (Massimo Pupillo), and saxophone (Luca T. Mai), the trio from Rome, Italy gradually developed into their current form of highly intricate, experimental , metal/math/no-wave/free/noise/punk/jazz inspired work, breaking from the narrow confines of given music genres, and incorporating a wide array of influences into a unique sound.

Driven by a “Black Flag” work ethic, Zu have played the astounding number of over 1000 gigs all over Europe, America, Canada , Asia, Russia, and even Africa, and have released 14 albums on such labels as Ipecac, Atavistic, Frenetic, Red Note, Public Guilt, Headz (Japan),etc.

Talking of previous recordings, “Igneo” was enginereed by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio. “Radiale” was recorded by Bob Weston , and went into the polls of NYC Village Voice.

Zu have always been curious and open to collaborations with
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JhatorJhator
House of Mythology 2017
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Way of the Animal PowersWay of the Animal Powers
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ZU Discography

ZU albums / top albums

ZU Bromio album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Bromio
Metal Related 1999
ZU Igneo album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Igneo
Metal Related 2002
ZU Radiale (with Spaceways Inc.) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Radiale (with Spaceways Inc.)
Metal Related 2004
ZU How to Raise an Ox album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
How to Raise an Ox
Metal Related 2005
ZU The Way of the Animal Powers album cover 5.00 | 1 ratings
The Way of the Animal Powers
Metal Related 2005
ZU Identification With The Enemy: A Key to the Underworld album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Identification With The Enemy: A Key to the Underworld
Metal Related 2007
ZU Carboniferous album cover 4.17 | 16 ratings
Carboniferous
Avant-garde Metal 2009
ZU Cortar Todo album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Cortar Todo
Avant-garde Metal 2015
ZU Jhator album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Jhator
Non-Metal 2017

ZU EPs & splits

ZU live albums

ZU Live in Hellsinki album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Hellsinki
Avant-garde Metal 2003
ZU Rai Sunawachi Koe Wo Hassu album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Rai Sunawachi Koe Wo Hassu
Avant-garde Metal 2006

ZU demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

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ZU Reviews

ZU Jhator

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
The Italian band ZU is one of those bands that is entirely pointless to categorize because throughout their two decade career they have fully embraced their diverse palette with an extra emphasis on experimentalism. For the most part though, this trio of Massimo Farjon Pupillo on bass, guitar, piano, synth, Tomas Järmyr on percussion and Luca T. Mai on baritone sax, electronics and vocals hasn’t strayed too overly far from the amorphous free-form drone compositions with extreme metal clothing that incorporates harsh guitar distortion, heavy percussion and hellish Zorn inspired sax attacks. While totally unique in any regard, ZU share their chameleonesque genre shapeshifting once again as they continue to go Ulver on us and completely throw a curve ball with their 15th release (counting the collaborations) JHATOR which retains the meditative practice that they are famous for but drops the aggressive brutality that typically supports it and opts for a more relaxing and contemplative soundscape.

The title JHATOR is a Tibetan practice of sky burial funeral practice of placing a corpse on top of a mountain to decompose and allow the natural world to reclaim the elements that compose the body. This “excarnation” of allowing a body to be scavenged by carrion birds and natural bacteria is practiced extensively in areas such as Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Mongolia and Bhutan. This album contains two expansive tracks that sound as if they are the soundtrack for such practices as the moods and styles fit the bill perfectly. Unlike the more metal meets jazz oriented albums that ZU is famous for, this one straddles the line of post-rock type sprawling soundscapes that incorporate ambient synthesized atmospheres with experimental electronic simulations of animals, spirits and natural events accompanied by traditional Eastern instruments such as the Japanese koto (21 stringed versions as well as the 17 string bass koto), gongs as well as other unorthodox instrumentation such as a hurdy gurdy, amplified tuba and Flugabone which all requires an extra eight guest musicians to pull off.

It’s almost as if the band members went on a spiritual retreat to the Himalayas somewhere and gained inspiration in the most profound ways as the sprawling meditational tracks perfectly convey the message in pure instrumental form. The first track “Jhator: Sky Burial” opens with gong strikes followed by an electronic insect swarm of some sort that signifies the inevitable return to the Earth and the ultimate recycling of the corporeal being into the natural systems that surround us. The build up of the over 21 minute track is tantamount to the most apocalyptic sounding Godspeed You! Black Emperor material with a dreadful drone effect characterized by the subtle flux of the instruments in tandem. The second track “The Dawning Moon Of The Mind” signifies the decomposition stage and utilizes its twenty minute plus existence with a darkened droning synth background with what sound like distant angelic forces mediating and chanting while the electronic noises sputter around. The exotic instruments break in from time to time to offer ceremonial intermissions as the otherworldly dirge continues.

Despite having been around for two decades and known for not only dipping into the metal, jazz and progressive rock worlds with their cross-genre skipping eclecticism, ZU still remains a bit under the radar as being slightly too off-kilter for the average genre dweller. ZU is far too overreaching to be easily pegged into any of those genres and with JHATOR, they completely reveal completely new aspects of themselves as they effortlessly navigate the expansive narrative soundscapes that convey the message of the ancient Tibetan ritual. This album totally eschews any metal aggressiveness, any jazz syncopation outbursts or progressive rock excesses. JHATOR is exclusively grounded in soundtrack type epic sprawling tracks that simulate post-rock but come off more as deep tribal ambient type music that finds inspiration from ancient wisdom rather than from modern day society. This one is almost like a musical painting where each note is equivalent to a paintbrush stroke that exhibits its effect for an allotted period of time. Strange and hauntingly beautiful, JHATOR is a bizarre experiment from ZU that works out remarkably well.

ZU Carboniferous

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
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siLLy puPPy
ZU is an atypical power trio emerging from Rome, Italy in the 90s delivering some energetic and unconventional hybrid music. I was totally unfamiliar with this group before their 11th studio album CARBONIFEROUS and I have not heard any other albums before this but from what I have read they have taken on a more heavy and distorted take on their RIO / Avant-prog meets math rock music. There are a several groups this band reminds me of. They have a musical delivery approach like the avant-jazz French group Jean Louis but the heaviness and chord changes have a Fantômas feel as well which is particularly true on the two vocals tracks that have Mike Patton making a cameo appearance. This could be due to the fact they toured with Fantômas and Melvins in 2006. ZU also has a groove on some tracks similar to another strange band called Chrome Hoof. This is especially noticeable on the first track “Ostia.”

Any way you slice it ZU is an RIO band in structure with an avant-jazz-metal veneer consisting of the unconventional trio of instruments that includes bass, drums and baritone saxophone. We do get a couple guest guitarists lending a hand on “Chthonian” and “Obsidian” but Massimo Pupillo's extremely heavy fuzzy bass pretty much delivers as much distortion as the music can handle and Luca Mai's sax playing takes the place of the traditional guitar. He handles rhythmic duties for the most part but also contributes some sizzling solos that bring John Zorn to mind. Jacopo Battaglia has a jazz drummer's method of dancing around the strange chord progressions and contributes more of a complementary sound than an expected backbone of the band. The musicians spend their time weaving around each other in a way that makes it hard to focus on any one particular instrument that stands out but there are times when solos are thrown in.

This music is highly addictive. It was love at first listen for me but it only got better the more I listened to it. The band makes full use of tones and distortion as a key part of the musical structure and the musicianship is top-notch. By blending various aspects of math rock, noise rock, punk, jazz, grindcore and a touch of repetitive drone doom at times, they have created a very intricate and disciplined style of music that doesn't come off as being as complex as it is. A true treasure tucked away under the various categories of RIO, avant-prog, avant-garde metal, or free jazz, but nomenclature aside it is simply a unique sound that fans of adventurous, energetic and unorthodox fusion will find most satisfying.

ZU Carboniferous

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Triceratopsoil
Zu's noisy and groove-oriented sound is somewhat reminiscent of French avant-jazz three-piece Jean Louis (an entirely unaffiliated act), although with a metal edge to it. The bass on Carboniferous is loud, crunchy and very prominent. Distorted saxophone makes a lot of racket (in a good way). The drumming is pretty jazzy for a metal band, but that can largely be attributed to the fact that Zu has anything but a typical metal sound.

Right away, the first track "Ostia" sets the tone for the album, revealing Zu's high energy blast of finely sculpted noise-metal. The pizazz loosens up a bit on a few of the tracks, but for the most part Zu's liveliness is unrelenting.

Carboniferous is fairly "out there," but I highly recommend it for anybody with a tolerance for avant-garde music or free-jazz.

ZU Carboniferous

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sleepwalker
Zu is a three-piece band making music bred from the experimental combination of several genres including, among others, technical metal and free-jazz. This blend of styles creates a mind-blowing and intense sound more menacing and striking than most music I’ve ever heard. As I write this review, Carboniferous is the band’s most recent creation.

Notable is the somewhat unconventional lead here, which is Luca Mai’s baritone saxophone that proves to be very suitable to this kind of heavy music, performing some fierce shrieks and deep, heavy growls. The rhythm section as well is important for the distinctive sound created here. It’s a very strong one, consisting of Jacopo Battaglia’s aggressive drumming and Massimo Pupillo’s bass playing, which often has a thick sound and frequently is distorted. Apart from playing the drums, Jacopa Battaglia also is responsible for the electronics and even some mellotron, that manage to give the album a somewhat amospheric feel.

Zu’s intense sound can already be heard in the first riff of the heavy opener “Ostia”, with it’s distorted bass and dissonant saxophone playing, reminding one of free-jazz. The majority of music on the album is in this vein, dynamic and intense, though it still maintains a diverse feel and keeps me completely interested even after the many times I’ve listened to it. Also worth mentioning are the collaborations with other musicians on this album, among them Mike Patton’s vocal performance on “Soulolympics” and King Buzzo’s (Melvins) guitar playing on “Chthonian”.

After the many times I’ve listened to Carboniferous it still manages to amaze me. This might have something to do with the energetic and intense sound Zu creates here, which is an unique and distictive one. I’d recommend this album to those who might enjoy a combination of the dissonance of free-jazz and the monstrous power of a heavy rhythm section.

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