ZU — Carboniferous

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ZU - Carboniferous cover
4.17 | 16 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2009

Filed under Avant-garde Metal


1. Ostia (4:56)
2. Chthonian (6:48)
3. Carbon (4:24)
4. Beata viscera (3:58)
5. Erinys (3:43)
6. Soulympics (5:06)
7. Axion (5:21)
8. Mimosa Hostilis (4:09)
9. Obsidian (6:29)
10. Orc (5:20)

Total Time: 50:14


- Luca T. Mai / baritone saxophone
- Massimo Pupillo / bass
- Jacopo Battaglia / drums, electronics, mellotron
- Mike Patton / vocals and electronics (tracks 6 and 10)
- King Buzzo / guitar (track 2)
- Guilio Ragno Favero / guitar (track 9), bass (track 7), sinewaves and squarewaves (track 10)
- Alessandro "Pacho" Rossi / percussion (tracks 2 and 10)

About this release

Ipecac Recordings

Thanks to triceratopsoil, xaxaar, adg211288 for the updates


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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'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 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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