Review: Sanzu – ‘Heavy Over the Home’

I had heard great things about the five-piece Sanzu, hailing from Perth, Australia. Their EP ’Painless’ was certainly in the death metal sphere, but not as progressive Gojira, a band that many had compared Sanzu against. So I looked forward to their first album release ‘Heavy Over the Home’, with some excitement, to see if Sanzu could breathe some life into a genre that I’ve loved since seeing Morbid Angel face-melt audiences way back in time when everything was new. The good news is that it follows on from ‘Painless’, but does it move on from there?

This album is detuned, stark and passionless. No shame in that, but it has no shade or variance. The first three tracks are largely the same in terms of sound and construction, nothing really separates them in style or content. Listening to albums of this type over and over again normally lets them worm into your brain, and you realise the depth and subtleties. Not here. I could use the well trampled vocabulary of ‘crushing’ or ‘power-laden’ but it’s not. There are touches here that imply that Sanzu have listened carefully to other bands over the years, but there is a naivety in the playing that demotes the guitars to percussive instruments.

The huge positive is the ability of bass player, Fatima Curley, which is sublime throughout the entire album. She manages to produce a tone that is perfect and is a talent that needs to be heard. The blessing here is that the mix promotes her. This playing stands out in the first strong track on the album, track 4, ‘Tailor’. This is the first track that is of the level I would expect, that would take me off my arse and into the arena to see this band. It’s a slogfest, and right up there power and aggression, with jack-hammer drum and better vocals. It’s a beauty, and should have been the opening track. This is also the first track that I hear the Gojira guitar ripple and it’s throughout the album. Nice to have, but not on most tracks. If you want to know what I’m burbling on about have a listen to this track or on ‘Explosia’ by Gojira.

Unfortunately, the next track takes us backwards, but we move quickly onto ‘Awaken’, and we get more intensity than we have seen before, brooding and dark, but it’s only a short track without vocals. Its shows, though, that the band can play, and there is an opportunity to exploit that. It leads us onto the title track ‘Heavy Over The Home’, and it’s a low-rumble of a track that promises a great deal. From the riff, the power drill drums, and that spanking bass, its slap-bang in the middle of where it needs to be. Vocally, it’s all right, but the phrasing and change in vocal styles just distorts the overall grind of this track. When the vocal stops and the band play, it’s a blinder. Maybe I have to see it live to appreciate it better, but less words and a better growl would sort it… in my opinion. It’s a good long track to really hear the band to stretch its wings and solidify.

So to the top track for me, ‘The Chill’, and this is more like it. Vocally, it works, as I’m not getting the image of the vocalist standing on a chair to be heard over the band trying to jam in as many words between breaths. This track is a real stand out and it’s relentless. It will wear you down and slap you around. That’s the expectation that I have from this genre, and this is the first justification that the strong vibe that I’ve been getting about this band is well placed. If you have just moved in to the top floor apartment then this is the song that you stick on the death-deck to let the new neighbours know you have arrived. It’s a ball-tearer.

So next track ‘Loss’ is a mirror of the first three tracks of the album and doesn’t move us on. It’s certainly not the track I’d want to build on after ‘The Chill’. We should be going in for the kill. To the last track then, and ‘Colourblind’ lets the album fade out. Nothing here just the wind and some noodling on a guitar.

This album probably has the depth to be an EP but as an album, it’s okay. The guitar work needs to be given more freedom, but the rhythm section is top notch. Vocally, the jury is out and won’t be coming back for a while. I really hope that Sanzu take the opportunity to save what’s left of this metal genre in Australia and give it a strong nudge in the balls with their follow up release. They have the ability, but just got to unshackle and introduce some real drive.

Sanzu are:

Percussion – Ben Stanley

Guitars – ‘Century’ & Mikey Hart

Bass – Fatima Curley

Vocals – Zac Andrews

Review: Craig Grant

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