Icelandic explorers Zhrine pour space-age magic into their fiery puzzle on strong debut record

ZhrineI wonder if there is metal on other planets. We can’t be the only civilization that revels in our own darkness and morbid wonders about the darkest matters in life. I only can imagine what alien beings could add to extreme metal, and perhaps we now have something that’s kind of close.

Hailing from Iceland come Zhrine, a band that’s been doing their thing in various forms for years now but have just hit on something with their debut record “Unortheta.” What we have here is a record that informs metal and death quite differently from most other bands and seems to dump cosmic winds into their work, almost as if they were sent here from another planet. It’s tough to really pinpoint exactly what the band presents here, and using “death metal” only scratches at a few of the sparks that find us. Their music basks in atmosphere and deep pockets of oxygen, a vast difference from many other bands that seem intent on choking you with soot. This goes other places and spills dreams into their cauldron.

Zhrine coverThe band has been together for some time, starting off as brutal death unit Gone Postal, who put out one record in 2008. As their tastes and influences changed, so did their band. They took on the name Shrine in 2014, now morphing into the Zhrine moniker. The group—Þorbjörn Steingrímsson on guitars/vocals, Nökkvi Gylfason on guitars, Ævar Örn Sigurðsson on bass, and Stefán Ari Stefánsson on drums—creates a record that not only is heavy and brutal, but also incredibly listenable and spacious. It feels different every time you listen, and it makes the band another fresh entry into the world making metal exciting again.

“Utopian Warfare” gets things started with clean guitars drizzling, leading into thundering and atmospheric haze. The heat builds with melodies arriving and the storm bursting open. Deep, wrenching growls enter the mix, while the band dizzies you as things move along, with each part lapping and the track slowly slipping away. “Spewing Gloom” rips apart right away, with deep growls bruising and tricky trudging rattling your brain. The track simmers and gives off steam, with the song bleeding out, and noise creating a thick cloud. “The Syringe Dance” combusts from the start, with shrieked vocals adding a deadly element, and the track taking a strange progressive turn. The song continues its churning, with beastly growls bruising, ripped apart by gaping shrieks, and noise rises up at the end of the track and wafts out. “World” starts with strings jangling and cold guitars emerging. The pace takes a slow burn, later to erupt into crushing deathrock undertones. The track eventually rips apart, with doomy smothering taking hold and blending into the next piece.

“Empire” simmers in moodiness before death riffs strike, and the band trudges forward heavily. The band keeps smearing, punishing, with the track lurching, deep, dangerous growls slicing through, and a heavy dose of noise spiraling into clean guitar work. That all slides into “The Earth Inhaled,” which sounds like it crashes out of a blast furnace. The assault sounds both grimy and airy, with harsh, shrieked vocals splitting the Earth, and the music later hypnotizing. Punches also are thrown amid this, with the track building and landing blows, and the sound spilling out and into the bashing title cut. Clean guitars set the mood early, letting serenity take hold before the track tears itself apart. The band pounds in place, unleashing an unmovable assault that’s also dressed with fearsome shrieks, and music that hits a dangerous boil. The song disorients as the track reaches its finish, with growls surging, their dream-inducing mission finding its destination, and the chaos fading away into the void.

Zhrine’s debut is a damn good one and a great find for Season of Mist and their already stellar roster. These guys further polish the shine on the Icelandic metal scene and provide new twists and turns for the often static death and black metal forms. This band is refreshing, smothering, and totally willing to take your mind beyond normalcy.

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