As far back as 1984, Bathory were being laughed at for being anti-musical and for favouring raw energy and extremity over technicality, which just goes to show that the metal scene’s ability to flirt with what is deemed by most as ‘noise’ or ‘pure chaos’ has deep roots. Still, a few select bands have turned the underground scene upside down over the last few years by redefining the word ‘extreme’.
Even if now-revered acts such as Madrid’s Teitanblood or Brisbane’s Portal couldn’t be more different one from another, they’re both shrouded in mystery, rely on multiple and purposely indecipherable occult references and are, simply put, friggin’ noisy and dirty.
ZOM (the capital letters are deliberate) are well-placed to be the next in line; like their predecessors, they hail from a city – Dublin – that isn’t historically an extreme metal hotspot, they’re signed to a label that’s small in size but big as far networking goes and they played the right festivals for this kind of music (Hell’s Pleasure, Killtown Deathfest, Live Evil).
In a nutshell, ZOM play the underground game perfectly and, on their debut full-length, Flesh Assimilation, it pays off. A boiling churn of blackened death metal, it touches upon a primal form of brutality, yet there’s more at work at here and through repeated spins, its 32 minutes slowly unveil a surprising depth without ever losing its deadly bite. But if their moniker (‘Zom’ was originally an extra-dimensional Marvel Comics character and Doctor Strange’s gigantic half-human half-demon meanest foe) or their OTT – and yes, once again, in capital letters – aliases such as SODOMANIAC haven’t pointed you to the right direction yet, what makes the three Irishmen stand out the most is their attitude. Because they truly don’t give a fuck. At all./o:p
At least that’s how their drummer SABBAC comes across, while rolling a joint between two rehearsals with one of his five(!) currently active bands, including Dread Sovereign with Alan Averill from Primordial…
“I did my first gig when I was 14 and I’m 28 now, so it means that I’ve been playing live half of my life at this point and the other two guys are as experienced. We all played in various bands over the years, from hardcore to punk and metal. The scene over here in Dublin is very incestuous. Everybody knows everybody and everyone plays together at some point so there’s no real competition, it’s very healthy.
“As ZOM, we weren’t bound by our given influences, we knew from day one there would always be some crossover going on and that there would be some thrash, D-beat or slower bits, as long as they bring a good dynamic to the songs. Besides, we’ve never let our playing limitations get in the way of that, we play to our strengths. I’m first and foremost a guitar player, and that had been my main instrument ever since I was 12. But when we decided to form ZOM with CTHON, our bass player, it seemed impossible to find the right drummer, so I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll do it,’ and from then on, it became more like a serious thing to me, whereas earlier on, all I cared about was blastbeats and that [starts to pound] thumpa-thumpa Motörhead beat, you know? But out of all the stuff I’m doing right now, this is the one where everybody is exactly on the same page musically.”
After briefly toying around with the idea of bringing in a second guitar player, they decided to stick with the classic power-trio format. Unsurprisingly, SABBAC isn’t the kind of artist looking to come across as more than the sum of his parts.
“We never fancied ourselves as necro-grind-crust-whatever or any other stupid mash-ups,” he explains, “we only wanted to play death metal, that’s it. We’re not trance-inducing, we’re a live band, setting out to assault you with a barrage of noise. When we rehearse, we play very loud and more than once at gigs we’ve been told to turn it down, or I’ve ended up breaking a kit because I was beating the shit out of it and that’s how we like it. If on the album there are various noise samples going on in between each song, it’s because that’s what we’re using onstage, too. There’s no ‘good evening’, no stupid banter with us; we come in, we destroy, we leave, end of story. And we wanted to have that same feeling for the album.”
Confirming how much they hate “over-analysing things”, he confesses that he drew their very symmetrical logo one day on his kitchen table “totally stoned” before adding with a grin that “there’s very little goat- sacrificing going on our record, I’m afraid. There’s no philosophy, no hidden messages in our music, it’s just meant to be chaos. Lyrically, we’re much more into comic books folklore, space and the cosmos rather than, say, witches or the occult. The title track, for instance, is depicting an alien race shifting through the wreckage of humanity and harvesting our dead planet for whatever organic matter is left.”
ZOM have no big plans, no desire to become the next big thing. Laconically, the drummer says they recorded Flesh Assimilation only because “it was the right time to do an album, that’s it” and that they would be happy to “jump in a van”, whatever the destination is. Overall, although he fails to explain why now in 2015 there’s an actual demand, SABBAC is just happy to be part of the ride.
“There seems to be a market for this kind of very dark and raw form of extreme music at the moment, which is great, considering the sheer quality of the bands like Grave Miasma, Bölzer or even our mates in Malthusian from Dublin. There’s such a high calibre of music there, I’m pretty proud that we managed to carve a little niche in there so we can stand along. You can’t complain when there are loads of good bands, can you?”