Souls at Zero

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At the time it might have seemed more like Alternative Tentacles' way to get some thrash metal action on its roster, perhaps. But Souls at Zero reveals something else again -- namely, a band able to draw on everything from goth rock drama and medieval folk stylings to a tribal stomp and dub pace to epic howls to the universe, and then able to put it all back together again in one jaw-dropping combination after another. If there's a secret weapon at play, it's the band's ability to orchestrate and construct their songs -- nothing is simply ground out, and there's an obvious ear for silence, calm, and then release track for track. Consider "Sterile Vision" as one standout of many, the acoustic and electric components of the song less opposed in a Pixies/Nirvana style as part of an intrinsic evolution toward the climax. The addition of strings and wind instruments at points really sends some of the songs to even greater heights -- check out the sheer drama of "Flight," the apocalyptic riffs made even more end-of-the-world intense by the addition of violin and cello. "To Crawl Under One's Skin" and "Takeahnase" just as readily suggest early-'80s Cure as they do Wagnerian valkyries, while the monstrous "A Chronology for Survival" takes that threat and multiplies it, even if the chanting vocal parts here and there almost go too over the top. There's also what might be a bit of humor here and there -- consider how the quieter parts on the title track almost sound like a slightly calmer variation of fellow Bay Area musical splicers Mr. Bungle's own first notes on "Travolta." Other sharp touches include the use of fairly obscure samples from Star Wars and Triumph of the Will as atmospheric and musical elements.

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