Review Summary: A solid, original, head-fucky album from a band not afraid to experiment and have fun with their music. ZC mix effects laden, heavy distorted guitars with samples, and adding a twin set of growling, spitting ferocious screams with melodic singing.
First things first, you probably havn't heard of Zero Cipher. Despite releasing two full length albums so far, they have failed to make much of an impact on the British metal scene. And this is a great shame, because they are a very interesting band.
Their pure unadulterated insanity is matched only by fellow Brits SikTh. Like SikTh, Zero Cipher combine layers of crazy howling vocals, but lack the former's technical aspirations. Zero Cipher mix relatively simple but effects-heavy metal guitar parts with a DJ and twin vocalists; one growling, one singing. But don't let their nu-metal esque set up disparage you, this band are a very different animal.
Anyways, on to the album. It's called 45 Minutes of Fairytale Endings, and lives up to its name. The album is seperated by five "Chapters", starting with the Introduction, and moving onto The Princess's Capture, Wedded Bliss, Hideous Troll, and Showdown. These 'Chapters' are short interludes, which narrate the story, which is something of a play on typical fairytales, albeit with ZC's own twisted outlook. However, don't let this structure fool you into thinking that 45MOFTE is a lame concept album- the songs don't seem to tell much of a story, and are only vaguely related in terms of meaning. I'll go track by track- any I've missed out will be interludes.
02. The first song on the album, Stupid People Make Me Angry, does what any good opener does- introduces the basic concepts of the band and their general sound. Starting with a DJ sample, before being layered with guitar and drum lines; the singer 'Yeehaas' and kicks the song into gear. The guitar, whilst simplistic, perfectly compliments the vocals- ZC know when not to over-complicate things. Unintelligable growls interchange before the song hits the chorus, a catchy complaint on the ignorance of others.
03. The next song, On the Beginning is the End, starts with strings, adding a nice melodic contrast to the madness of their previous track. This is a much more mellow, laid-back song, allowing the listener to catch their breath before commencing with the rest of the album. A slowish tempo carries the track through various progressions, avoiding the typical verse/chorus/verse structure but without getting muddled. Distorted guitars and vocals exchange places with string samples, before hitting off at the end into a heavy outro
05. Oompa Loompa is a short, sharp slice of unfathomable crazyness, 40 seconds of screaming and thrashing guitars; a repetition of "Oompa Loompa, stick it up your jumper!" commences, showing the listener that ZC obviously don't take themselves too seriously.
06. Vitriolic HSF: The previous track fits so well with this one that it could almost be an extended intro- a cover of an Earthtone9 song, (and a huge improvement on the original) it starts with a pretty cool guitar riff, breaking into dueling growls, before hitting the chorus, which is layered with electronic vocal effects. A fast, heavy, catchy song.
08. Little Miss Naughty is the first song I would consider filler. It doesn't stand out too much as a song on its own, which isn't to say it's not good- it just doesn't reach the heigts of originality and interest the rest of the album does.
09. Seven Days Without You takes the tempo down again, coming in with a cleanly sung vocal melody. The guitars lay of the distorion, building up atmosphere instead. Singer Duncan's strangely hypnotic voice has a very calming effect on this song, possibly aided by the electronic effect which is placed on his voice, flanging slowly when he holds notes. A worthy addition to the album.
11. Head of David begins with a short, strangely detuned acoustic intro before heading headlong into more dueling, animalistic growls and screams. It contrasts well with the restrained feel of the previous song, and has some good guitar work in. Not much else to say really.
13. Spiral comes in full on, with a relatively dull intro, before reverting to clean guitars and vocals. It heads into a heavy/soft repetition, before going into a cool piano bridge. A song that shows the diversity of Zero Cipher, from heavy distorted insanity to calm, serenic moments of beauty.
14. Under the Thumb starts with a slowish drumbeat overlaid with effects and seemingly random notes. It's a strange blend of thrashy guitars and screaming and spoken word interludes, with some female vocals thrown in. Features a sample of Salma Hayek's speech from From Dusk Till Dawn, where she commands George Clooney to lick the dog *** from her boot. A head scratcher, but a good one at that..
16. Magic Time starts with an annoucement of said time: 'Alright people, it's magic time!' which is then sampled throughout the rest of the song. Effects heavy guitar and swirling, clean vocals follow, before heading into the typical screams of guitar and vocals. A great song, if slightly atypical when compared to the rest of the album.
17. When Six Meets Nine is another example of ZC's unabashed sense of humour. The song starts with clean, effects laden vocals, heading into another slow, melodic track. A relatively 'normal' track by ZC standards, and the last proper song before the last 'Chapter', which ends the song.
I'd like to have said more about the interludes, which quite frankly are hilarious and add greatly to the albums enjoyment, but this review is too long already, and the songs are what's important.
All in all, Zero Cipher have carved a unique sound for themselves, and hopefully will achieve the recognition they deserve. For fans of SikTh, Pitchshifter, The Prodigy and Aphex Twin.