It's time once again for our latest CD review at The Sault Metal Scene! 25 CD reviews are in the books, and now, for just the second time, we're reviewing a third album by a local band! In this case, we're taking a look at Sault Ontario's original crash band Sykotyk Rampage's newest album "Zombiez"! Considered the prolific quartet's 29th album, it was uploaded to their Reverbnation page on August 15th for free streaming, and uploaded to their Reverbnation store two weeks later, and was chosen to review first over it's five companion albums from this month due to it's heaviness. Despite the title and presence of the word "zombie" in each song title, the album is not lyrically themed as such. Self-produced and recorded live as they played over the last year (and maybe earlier) at River Front Recreation Studios, the album features Sykotyk Rampage's current lineup, including singer/drummer Paul Becker, his brother Dirk Becker on guitar and occasional lead vocals, Shane Kokis on guitar, and Paul's son-in-law Brian Cattapan on bass. The album can now be bought at this location for $6.99 in mp3 format or $10.99 on CD, with individual tracks at 99¢ each and $2.49 each for ringtones. Check out the full album today at the above links! (Updated on September 29th, 2012)
"Zombiez" features 12 songs amounting to around 39 minutes of music, which is shorter than in previous years for an individual Sykotyk Rampage release, but how does the quality stack up? Let's find out, starting with the first track, "Zombie Wheelz"! (Oh, and each song title here has every letter "S" replaced with the letter "Z", so note that I'm not making a million typos.) "Zombie Wheelz" kicks off the album with a drum solo and some crashy guitar before guitarist Dirk Becker asks what that opening was for. Gotta love a song recorded as it's played! The first part of the song is at a slow and measured pace that keeps a lively sound at the same time, almost like you're driving at your leisure while listening. Paul Becker's lead vocals match the song well, showing off his gruff bluesy voice without sacrificing the song's style, though he's hard to hear at times over the instruments. "Zombie Wheelz" has some catchy crash riffs, but the song does get repetitive after a while, and with Paul not singing for very long, I do feel that this song could have been edited down a bit. However, if you're a longtime fan of Syktoyk Rampage, it should whet your harsh music appetite well enough as an album opener!
Next is "Zpecial Zombiez", which immediately starts off with a higher tempo opening that feels like classic fun Sykotyk Rampage through and through! Paul's singing is lively and harsh all at once, and Dirk even chimes in with some colourful language that adds to the aggression of the track! You don't see the Becker brothers share vocals like this all the time, so it's cool to hear! The guitar riffing's pretty good, and Brian Cattapan's bass work adds here, he's got some good lines! "Zpecial Zombies" isn't among their cleanest tracks lyrically, but the band's at top form here for energy and some of the more "metal" sides of their sound, and there's enough variance to keep things interesting, but sadly, it ends very abruptly, a problem I've had before on Sykotyk Rampage albums. Still, this is a quality track that would be a welcome addition to their live setlists!
Third is "Don't Now Zombiez", though it should be "Don't Know", as this very short song mostly consists of Dirk Becker asking us spoken word questions, including about what we think about him and his thoughts about us, with some profanity laced in for added effect. The song itself isn't too substantial, mostly keeping a beat behind his conversation with the listener, but Dirk comes across as a self assured intimidating figure, so it's effective in that regard! Musically though, there's more substantial and engaging songs on the album. Following that, we have "Get't Together Zombiez", which start with Paul Becker repeatedly shouting "get it together!" No doubts about the song title here! Faster paced hard rock number with some rapid fire lyrics that alternate between "Get it together" and other lyrics relating to what he wants a person to do. The guitar riffs vary well amidst the crash sounds, and the drumming is non-stop during the track. It's probably heavier than "Zpecial Zombiez", but I'll rank it a bit lower for repetitions' sake, as the lyrics do get repetitive a lot, and the song could have benefited from fresher lyrics in the latter half. Still, it's the album's heaviest song yet, so definitely give it a listen!
Next is the song "I Fucked A Retard Zombie", and in case anyone is offended by the title, don't blame me, I didn't name the song. That said, with Sykotyk Rampage, line crossing in lyrics and themes can be expected. The song starts with a lot of distorted guitar playing before Paul begins singing about the person in the song's title, and despite the used language, it isn't a cruel song. Paul's singing is more like harsh talking The music improves and gets clearer later in the track, and the melodies get better with some pseudo-soloing as well. Nice drumming too, and Brian's bass work is well suited to everything here! If you're not easily offended, you'll find a solid track here, though I wish Paul's singing was more energetic, but when Dirk adds that "she's in a wheelchair", the vocals do get spiced up a bit!
The first half of "Zombiez" is rounded out by "Zombie in a Dream", which clocks in at just 24 seconds long, easily the album's shortest. Basically, it's a promising instrumental section that's pretty heavy, then just some drums, then lyrics about being a monkey on a rock, and then the song ends. Not sure how the title correlates to the song, but what I will say is that Sykotyk Rampage may have something here if they expand it to a full song length, but at 24 seconds, it is what it is, and not much else. The seventh song on "Zombiez" is "Zombie Killer", and it's the longest so far, going for 6:25 in length. It starts fairly slow, with more a bluesy feel with some more reserved vocals and louder instruments overtop. For the first 2 and a half minutes, it seems like a different song, a slower bluesy number, but after Dirk chants "zombie killer on the run" real low, things pick back up. The latter half is more energetic and melodic but retains the same basic feel, with Paul's vocals never going above a reserved spoken word style, though the very end is nice and crashy. I like "Zombie Killer" for it's style, but it does run too long for my tastes, and for a song about killing zombies, you'd expect it to be a lot heavier and faster, rather than building to that. Still, it's a good well played song that fans should enjoy!
Song number 8 is "Burning Zombiez", which actually starts abruptly like it was recorded late, but it starts well, with some melodic riffing from Dirk and Shane Kokis and energetic bluesy vocals from Paul, but they're masked beneath the music more often than not. The song has some nice chaotic riffing but it doesn't lead anywhere different from earlier songs, not that that's bad. Dirk throws in more secondary screams to the song as well, possibly as the burn victim in question from the song title? Though just over 3 minutes in length, it's energy and enthusiasm made me hope that it'd be a bit longer, but it's still an entertaining track, though I wish you could hear Paul's singing better. That's followed by "Demon Zombie", completing a trilogy of evil sounding song titles! It starts with some low crash riffing and some nice drumming, before Dirk Becker takes over lead vocals with more of his trademark quavering punk-influenced singing that we hadn't heard enough of in the last couple of years. Attitude and aggression drip from his lyrics here, and the song itself is full of the same improvised hard rocking you've came to enjoy over the years! Nothing dull here, the guitar and bass are on form, and Paul's drumming keeps the beat very well! This is another standout song, reminding me of tracks like "Lowest of the Low", and that's a good sign for the original crash band!
Tenth is "Zombie In A Dream Too", essentially the sequel to the first "Zombie In A Dream" song on this album. It's longer and more consistent in sound, mostly focusing on Paul's drumming with minimal quieter instrumentation around it, with scattered background talking at the end. It's more substantial than the first "Zombie In A Dream", but not as heavy, so despite the lack of anything "dreamlike", they're about the same in quality in my opinion. Another shorter song follows it, that being "Zombie Wheel Chair Racez", and let me just say that if you were offended at all by the fifth track, then be warned, as the lyrics here are mostly Dirk Becker telling us repeatedly that he has a brother who did the fifth track's title. The easily offended will not like this song, but if you look past that, it's a slower crash rock number that is catchy to a point, but the lyrics do get repetitive even for a song under 2:30 in length. Dirk and Shane have some good guitar work here, and no moment is wasted musically, so for it's length, it's a pretty good song. I can deal with the lyrics, but I do find that we hear the same lines too much, and I'd like to have seen the band use some more variety. Good short song, just be warned of the lyrical content.
"Zombiez" closes with "Angry Zombie", another shorter song, but does it live up to it's title with aggression? Not really, there's angrier songs on this album, but it's not bad! Paul returns to lead vocals here, but instead of spitting venom, he's doing more low softer singing here, though there are hints of hard rock. The song itself isn't anything too special musically, with some melodic guitar riffs and good drumming, but the title is sort of misleading. It definitely sounds like Sykotyk Rampage though, and it actually ends rather than cutting off abruptly, so it's a fitting closer to the album, though I was hoping for something, well, angry. So, what is my opinion of "Zombiez? Well, without comparing it to their other new albums (which I hope to get to in the future), I will say that I definitely enjoyed "Zombiez" more than last year's "Bella Disgusta", which was overly long and reserved than I think many of us had expected. Here, they're back to their blue Chinese metal crash punk roots, and fans of their more humorous and off colour lyrics will be happy to see that they're back! The band as a whole sound as good as ever, although their improvised songs, occasionally questionable lyrics, and unpolished style may turn some people off.
Paul Becker's vocals and drumming are as good as I expected, it's great to see Dirk Becker singing more here (especially on "Demon Zombie"), he and Shane Kokis lay down some unquestionably-Sykotyk riffs and melodies, and Brian Cattapan stands out on bass on most tracks, he's definitely a key cog in this machine! Songs like "Zpecial Zombiez", "Demon Zombiez", and "Get't Together Zombiez" show off Sykotyk Rampage's strengths well, though I do wish it was more consistent. Too many songs drag on too long and get repetitive (especially "Zombie Killer"), the "Zombie in a Dream" songs aren't substantial or long enough to stand on their own, it's a relatively short album compared to other recent releases, and sadly, abrupt song finishes are back here and there. I'd also like to have seen the zombie theme carried over to each track, as it might have made a cool concept album. Overall though, this is a quality Sykotyk Rampage release for fans of their harsh music, and it's probably their best album since 2008 or 2009, so definitely pick it up today for some fun improvised alternative hard rock! Get your environ-mental suits ready, as Sykotyk Rampage are on form once again!
So I hope you guys enjoyed this month's CD review, but what are we reviewing next month? I'll say that I'm not reviewing anything by Sykotyk Rampage or Foothill Road in September because it's too soon from my last reviews of theirs, but I can guarantee that in February 2012 or later, we WILL review another of Sykotyk Rampage's new albums (probably "Karrs", pending a possible 30th album before then.) Other than the bands above, most anything is possible from local metal and hard rock bands, be it a new or archive album (likely tied in with a band or musician playing next month.) I've heard rumours relating to a few albums finally being released in the fall, but as of right now, I can't speculate. Stay tuned to the SMS on Friday for our next "Where Are The New Albums?" post though, as all of the next releases from local metal bands will be discussed, so it could be one of them! That's all for now, but stay tuned for a new news post featuring LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS tomorrow! Thanks everyone!