Ethos, Pathos, Logosame
27th October 2017 – Self-released
01. The Stone
03. Sin Eater
04. The Breach
06. Infernal Liturgy
08. Rubic(On) The Styx
10. Server, Seer, Soothsayer
11. Tabula Rasa
ZhOra are a lot to take in. Like a piano-heavy, Remission-era Mastodon, their sound is frenzied and crushingly heavy, but also clipped and laser-precise.
ZhOra will appeal to the prog crowd, but they’ve got enough substance to their guitar tone to satisfy anyone who favours the more complex side of sludge metal. There are some obvious style guides, but these are mostly followed in spirit; there’s a bit of Gojira, quite a lot of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle madness and a little bit of Cardiacs too.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos is a pretty long record and is gale-force intense for pretty much the entirety of its runtime. It opens with some piano sweeps on “The Stone“, then dances through various high-octane prog metal madness until it take a bit of a breath around “The Breach“, which then leads onto the vocally rich “Jettatura“. Later, the record takes a Cardiac-y turn with the twisting, shimmering “Server, Seer, Soothsayer“, before concluding with the noisy, confrontational “Tabula Rasa“. The scale of musicianship is enormous and the songs are well-structured; it’s an intense listen but there are plenty of Dillinger-esque anthemic choruses which provide an anchor for the madness.
This record is gonna scratch a lot of itches; sonically it’s crisp and precise but the guitar sound is thunderous enough to elevate it to the Mastodon level of sludge-prog. The math-prog sensibilities are clear and present, more than just a flavour; they’re on equal footing with the rolling thunder of the sludge-y guitar work. Importantly the record sounds organic and rich, refreshingly avoiding sounding too polished in production; the best elements of early Mastodon with some notable eccentric flourishes.
It’s easy to lose track here, but getting lost in their madness is part of the appeal; it definitely seems like this is what ZhOra are going for. When a record’s aims are clearly to dazzle and baffle, it’s hard to fault any ideas that sound too wild to be included elsewhere, or are allowed to run away with themselves. So often when I’m faced with stuff written in a similar vein my criticism is to trim the fat, but there’s nothing here that feels inessential, and the comparatively long runtime helps their persistent sense of belligerence.
The press release for ZhOra suggests they’re “mad as a box of frogs” and honestly that’s pretty close to the mark. I would maybe substitute “sack of badgers.” Indulgent, bewildering but ultimately engaging, ZhOra are fantastically accomplished. If you’re a hardened prog fan it can be easy to be unimpressed by new music; in this case, enjoy being overwhelmed.