Review Summary: Delving further into mysticism and mythology…
ZAUM have gradually evolved since their debut LP, Oracles
, delving deeper thematically into ancient civilizations and mythologies. Several traditional instruments made their way into the compositions to represent and enhance the desired atmosphere. After 2016’s Eidolon
focused on Central American lore, the Canadian doom duo decided to turn their heads towards Southeastern Asia. Thus, their latest effort, Divination
maintains the familiar sonic formulas, but also contains different motifs from the respective region. Moreover, it moves at a more urgent pace than its predecessor.
Musically, ZAUM are still fleshing out, inserting details around their doom metal core. The guys started out using OM’s aesthetics, however, by now, they have encapsulated themselves in a sonic bubble of their own. The first half of the album, ‘Relic’ sums up everything they do best so far, plus adding the current themes, reportedly stemmed from ancient Burma. The dense atmosphere grows with New Age-like synthesizers, before kicking in with effects-soaked bass riffs, as well as pounding drums. Huge cymbals and bells are heard throughout, magnifying the vibe to mimic these mystic, temple-esque origins. Reverb is a key feature, being used on vocals too, which are layered most of the time. It’s nice they emphasized on heaviness too, overdubbing with distorted, low end bursts. Halfway through, the beat speeds up to enter into one of the fastest segments recorded by them so far. Hellish shouts drive the instrumental, getting noisier by the minute. Although the song is over 18 minutes long, it actually feels like one of their most cohesive epics yet. They balanced well the moody, transitional parts with the hard hitting ones.
The second half of Divination
features two shorter tunes, ‘Pantheon’ & ‘Procession’. The former strips most of the prolonged, ambient moments, leaning only on shrilling musical saw and dilruba (more or less a bowed sitar) embellishments over dark bass lines. They are the most captivating instruments used on the album in my opinion, offering a very compelling vibe. On the other hand, the main motif on ‘Procession’ sounds more like a mass prayer call, topped with similar, windy drones and murky, distorted verses. The steady drum beats echo a bit ‘Omen’ from Oracles
, yet there is more diversity here and a wider range of embellishments. I am curious, now that ZAUM are setting into a comfort zone with their ideas, what will they do next. Of course, they can continue down this path, however, it wouldn’t help to become too predictable. They worked on the quality of their music on their latest record and the results are great. I hope they can find that something to further complement their strengths, much like the traditional instruments from various parts of the world did so far.