THANATOSCHIZO — Schizo Level (review)

THANATOSCHIZO — Schizo Level album cover Album · 2001 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Sometimes bands are just too avant-garde for their own good. Like it or not, music is way too often pigeonholed into categories and genres for database conveniences and if a given band doesn’t lean too far one way or the other, they can easily get lost in the shuffle. Metal is no exception with the catchall dumping ground for disobedient children who refuse to conform with set standards. Avant-garde metal is that detention center and while a few bands like Mr Bungle, Sigh, Unexpect, Maudlin of the Well and Diablo Swing Orchestra have thrived by bucking expectations, most bands that dare explore unthinkable experimentation get tucked into a corner for a time out.

THANATOSCHIZO (stylized as ThanatoSchizO) is one such strange avant-garde metal band that originates from Santa Mata de Panaguião, Portugal which is just east of Porto. The band began as just Thanatos and kept the name from 1997-2000 but expanded the name to include SCHIZO due to the fact the first name was already taken and also because the band was getting weirder and weirder. Under Thanatos the band released a demo and an EP titled “Melégnia” in 2001 and in the same year the band changed its name and recorded and released its first album as THANATOSCHIZO.

SCHIZO LEVEL lives up to its name for sure. Even on the first track “Raw” you’re not sure what’s going on. It starts with horse galloping sounds and then proceeds into sound effects and a trumpet! Did we just start a mariachi band?!! Around a minute and a half a bunch of amateur guitar feedback jangles on for a few seconds and it’s almost enough to end the album right here and now but then suddenly a bombastic fury of fast tempo black metal guitars, bass and drums erupt into a cacophonous roar with tortured vocals screaming at the top of its lungs. OK, this is a metal album after all and it’s an extreme one at that! OK, the metal tag has been established but WTF kinda metal is it? Sounds like black metal with tortured vocals but then death metal growls begin and even a little tribute to “Wipeout” surf rock. OK, this is gonna be weird!

To be fair, THANATOSCHIZO is quite liberal in how it adopts ideas and places them into various spots on this album but in the end the band mainly focuses on metal albeit a mix of death, black, thrash, gothic and even doom. Despite the main focus on metal the band also includes plenty of non-metal sounds that range from progressive rock and ambient to classical piano and various forms of world music. Not quite as extreme as bands like Unexpect but just as extreme in the metal department. One of the things that makes SCHIZO LEVEL so damn riveting is that is both melodic and fun! Everything revolves around various grooves, melodic hooks and unorthodox counterpoints.

The one drawback about this album is that it extends past the 64 minute mark and i don’t think the material is strong enough for that length of time but it’s also true that there are no bad tracks per se. This is an entertaining album through and through and THANATOSCHIZO are masters of juxtaposition of disparate musical elements without sounding like they are copycatting any particular avant-garde metal band out there. Generally speaking the band likes to begin tracks with non-metal influences ranging from classical piano to gypsy swing violin however the main gist of each track is oft limited to extreme metal that includes all the biggies like death, black, thrash, gothic and doom as well as nice good old fashioned 80s classic sounds. In this regard the band reminds me of a more adventurous version of Greece’s The Elysian Fields.

On SCHIZO LEVEL there are five main members that includes Eduardo Paulo (vocals), Patricia Rodrigues (vocals), Guilhermino Martins (guitar, bass, piano, church organ, vibraphone), Filipe Miguel (keyboards) and Paulo Adelino (drums, vocals) but there are 8 guests providing additional electronics, flute, bass, piano, ethnic samples and lots of screams! This album loves to mix trippy etherial moments with extremely bombastic metal madness. If i had to compare THANATOSCHIZO to any other band i’ve heard out there, i’d probably say it’s a more extreme version of the Japanese band Sigh especially in how it carries itself in the songwriting department but of course that’s the closest approximation. Avant-garde acts like this strive to be and succeed in existing in their own worlds with only distant comparisons for the sake of reviewers. This was an unexpected winner! I will certainly be exploring more from this band :)
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