ZEIT – Gram EP

zeit 2016In the summer of 2015, German experimental black metal trio Zeit dropped their third EP ‘Trümmer’. The bulk of its material was cold, uncompromising but rather interesting, putting the DIY band firmly among the heavy hitters with regard to truly challenging metal sounds. Less than a year on, their fourth release, ‘Gram’ sets out to thrill, frighten and confront – almost in equal measure.

‘Erwacht’ begins the release with one of the best moments in the Zeit catalogue to date. After a couple of drum beats with a brilliantly flat production (bringing a similar sound to the pulse beat at the start of Sabbath‘s ‘Iron Man’), hard ringing guitars crank a slow, almost doom-laden riff. This repeats for several bars, thus giving the impression it could go on unchanged for some time. Things get even more intense once the vocal appears. Vocal, in this case, is a broad term, since at first, Fur’s voice is so thin, airy and hissing, when delivered so slowly, you could almost mistake it for extra instrumentation – or indeed, the sounds of an Arctic cold front blowing through the studio. After a couple of minutes of this, things change gears to introduce chiming chords and steady drumming before expanding into a grinding black metal onslaught. While the harsh guitar tones and hissing voices are firmly in the sphere of more traditional black metal, drummer Win pushes the black metal envelope by not just relying on the usual predictable and pneumatic drumming. There are moments where the bass pedals are in full flow against the rattled cymbals, but there are far more where instances where he uses fills and riffs that appear much more in the vein of an extreme garage rock band. Finishing off with a thrashy riff, complete with stops, before reintroducing the introductory doom, this feels like a complete experience in terms of extreme metal.

At first, ‘Verloren’ attacks with some almost timeless thrash sounds, not so far removed from an extreme version of early Slayer. This shows Zeit are good players, but again, Fur’s voice eventually dictates a firm move into the black metal sound, faster than before, heavier in places, too. …And then for the instrumental break comes a few bars of more classic thrash, on which bassist Flakmann is higher in the mix and Win’s drumming is utterly surperb. A couple more minutes of this and it could have been a classic, but Zeit being Zeit, it just wasn’t to be and more black metal mayhem ensues. During the intro of ‘Kollective Einsamkeit’, Zeit push all of their previous boundaries and go for something more melodic – and not even in the way you might be expecting, either. Turning up the bass and allowing for some (almost) garage rock drumming, this track’s intro fuses garage rock sounds with a stoner rock heaviness, like one of Josh Homme’s more upbeat experiments. From this, the possibility of Zeit’s next move seems without boundaries, but some unrelenting pneumatic sounds, some intense grinding and black metal vocals soon dominate. Win’s drumming skills are without question and in terms of powerful extreme metal, it’s more than fine, but it could have been so much more…

The final pairing of ‘Machinefahig’ and ‘Dort’ provides no respite from the heaviness. The former in particular starts out excellently with a classic 70s doom groove followed by a seamless move into a sound closest to melodic death metal. The instrumental workouts during the track really allow Fur’s loud guitar to cut some interesting shapes, but – as always – there is no real lead work, just intense rhythms; his mechanical approach compliment the drums well and a menacing riff that occasionally rears through the general din shows even more signs of Zeit opening their black metal floodgates to allow other extreme metal influences through; it’s smart, but very much suggests this won’t appeal to the more purist fan. ‘Dort’, meanwhile sounds like a musical equivalent of an industrial building site, with moments of unrelenting pneumatic noise spliced uneasily against a spasmodic riff. The quirk in the riff alone makes the track markedly different from the preceding tracks, but is no less easy to penetrate if not a fan of the style. Continuing what can only be described as a musical frenzy, there are a couple of potentially interesting musical passages to follow, with the rhythm guitar rising just enough to pass as a shredding lead, but on the whole, with Zeit going at their chosen instruments with absolute abandon, there’s not much in the second half of this closing track you won’t have encountered from the band before. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, of course…

There is some cracking music on this third EP, but perhaps rather more so than on ‘Trümmer‘, the vocals can become just a little too intrusive in places. For lovers of a definite black metal hiss, this surely won’t be a problem, but for those possessed with a more melodic ear or a more sensitive nature, it will almost certainly be troublesome. From the perspective of an uncompromising riff, however, Zeit still absolutely slay on these five tracks. If you like an unfiltered and thrashy guitar, these recordings should bring excessive amounts of excitement with such raw materials.

April 2016