Symphonies of Slackness is a great New Zealand music blog that posts Bandcamp links to the kind of rowdy homegrown releases that Six Noises likes to cover. I’ve discovered loads of fierce albums via Symphonies of Slackness’ pages, including The Killing Zone, the recently released debut from Wellington-based grindcore trio Zone Killer.
I was going to start this review by saying that I don't really listen to much contemporary grindcore. Napalm Death or Nasum's discographies essentially meet my grindcore needs. (Well, okay, maybe Extreme Noise Terror, Pig Destroyer, and Insect Warfare too. And a couple more bands besides.) But, of course, nowadays, extreme metal and heavyweight punk endlessly mix subgenres. So a lot of the volatile music I listen to regularly uses at least some of grindcore's componentry.
Symphonies of Slackness mentioned that Zone Killer has ties to a brutal NZ band that did just that: namely, the now defunct One Outs. The One Outs released an impressively violent/vicious debut album back in 2015. But the band called it a day in late 2017. Don't let the One Outs' demise dissuade you from checking out their self-titled album though. It features a ripping mix of grindcore, "beatdown hardcore", and powerviolence.
Much like the One Outs, Zone Killer are fully committed to making an uncompromising racket. Their pulverizing hybrid sound mixes various strains of metal and punk while leaning hard on grindcore's strident essentials. The Killing Zone tracks, like "Black Standard", "Red Danes", and "Vector", might not be breaking any new ground, but they definitely deliver jagged, rapid-fire riffs and all the required (and blastbeasten) energy.
Add in vocalist Arnold Kim’s guttural grunts and higher pitched screeches, and Zone Killer's assaultive music ticks all the expected harsh 'n' heavy songwriting boxes. But there are creatively subtle ideas at work here too.
Tracks like "Killing Zone" and "Lunatic Pandora" find Zone Killer (ever-so-slightly) easing off the gas. That change in tempo sees guitarist Jordi Diego Zonneveld and drummer Rob Thompson delivering slower and sludgier onslaughts. And that simple rhythmic adjustment is the key to ensuring Zone Killer don't just churn out one-dimensional or indistinguishable songs.
Shrewd songwriting tweaks aside, The Killing Zone is still predominantly crude and caustic throughout. But that’s not an issue. Unless you're longing for something technically meticulous.
Obviously, some grindcore fans do want their favoured bands to sound like ultra-precise, machine-driven Terminators. But that level of painstaking sophistication isn’t on Zone Killer’s agenda.
The Killing Zone isn't a lo-fi demo. But it isn't filled to the brim with pinpoint, hi-fi entertainment either. Sonically, it has a very rough edge. No denying that. And Zone Killer deal in gritty, gutter metal. But that's all great news if you're a fan of scummy walls of noise like I am.
It's even better news if you like abrasive soundtracks for a crumbling fucking world. And it's superlative news if you think (like I do) that grindcore is best measured by its intensity rather than its intricacy.
In saying that, it clearly takes a degree of skill to play full-bore grindcore well. And I'm not suggesting that Zone Killer's unpolished approach means they're lacking in that department. What I am pointing out is that their debut is more savage and human than it is robotic or clinical. And that raw emotive hook might be what grabs you. It was for me.
Zone Killer exhibit plenty of dexterous ability as they ferociously tear through The Killing Zone's six songs in less than 10 minutes. And, overall, the band's debut is really promising. Fans of crushing and neck-wrecking grindcore will no doubt enjoy Zone Killer's relentless, bulldozing stamina. Plus, as it is with most filthy grindcore, those swarming riffs and throat-shredding vocals you'll encounter on The Killing Zone have clear crossover appeal for powerviolence and hardcore crowds too.