On their 2018 release ‘Necroshiva’, Kazakhstan’s Zarraza really tightened up their blend of thrash and groove metal. The album, although centring around a couple of tried and tested styles and obvious influences, was incredibly well produced and came loaded with impeccably played riffs. On the best tracks, elements of Lamb of God jostled against bits of Slayer, which resulted in something incredibly powerful, especially when dressed with a dirty hardcore-tinged bottom end. In terms of their abilities with a riff, this underground act were now on a par with French metallers Backdawn, and Atlanta’s Bless The Dead. This tight and mean approach carried the following year’s ‘Rotten Remains’ where the arguably more professional band set about revisiting and re-recording some of their earlier DIY recordings, again with brilliant results.
Following a short break – almost certainly forced upon them by the global pandemic – Zarraza’s made a welcome return in 2022. ‘Kreated In Blood’ isn’t just a great showcase for the band’s ultra-tight riffing, it’s also a tribute to those who inspired them, and a great entry point for those unfamiliar with their work.
As suggested by the title, this EP features a handful of covers – two originally by thrash metal pioneers, and a third tipping the hat to later arrivals who’ve helped to keep the flame burning, with huge success. ‘People of The Lie’ (originally by Kreator) kicks off with a fantastic twin lead, ushering in an ominous melody, capturing the guitar tone beautifully and sounding a little less like a Slayer homage in direct comparison to the original, before branching off into the expected muted chug, delivered with a sledgehammer tone and timeless intensity. A growling, semi-hardcore inflected vocal is massive improvement on Mille’s distinctive yelp/growl combo, since it makes a very intense track sound far less comedic. In terms of lead guitar break too, although a lot of care has gone into replicating the Kreator original, a much fatter tone makes it sound far more powerful. It’s easy to hear how this cover not only suits Zarraza, it pretty much cements everything that was previously great about them. Moving into the twenty first century, a version of Gojira’s ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ strips back a few of the original’s more industrial tones to concentrate more on a pure groove metal aesthetic, and in doing so, actually makes the song a little more accessible. Vocally, too, things seem a little less harsh, but without shifting too far away from the intensities that have made Gojira’s work so enduring to most. Again, the playing is superb; the way the chugging downstrokes lock into the bass drum creates a classic sound, and the vocals – occasionally sounding as if they’re channelling the young Max Cavelera – are a perfect fit for the job in hand. As a wonky, ominous tone weaves in and out of the sheer pneumatics during the coda, it’s clear that Zarraza mean business.
It’s a brave band that takes on Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ considering that its one of the genre’s defining tracks. However, Zarraza manage to not only be respectful, but als show the world a set of thrash dominated talents that are pretty much capable of nailing the fastest, most intricate aspects of their art. The tribal drums of the intro are augmented by a noise that sounds like a cross between a guitar’s talk-box and a didgereedoo, instantly setting up something that’s slightly different. Hitting upon the main twin lead riff, everything plays to tradition with a perfect tone, which should be enough to win over any doubters. The speed driven verse sounds a little faster due to a drum part that not only matches Dave Lombardo’s best, but seeks to make it more aggressive – and somehow succeeds – while a growling voice lends an even greater intensity. Everything is almost derailed when it comes to replicating Jeff Hanneman’s classic solo, though, and as if to realise this, Zarraza choose to push the lead guitars for absolute extremes, until the speed driven rhythms collapse into a clattering noise and a wall of feedback. It’s ferocious, but above all, it’s kind of fun!
These three cover tunes are delivered with absolute conviction. The playing is pretty much always spot on and incredibly tight. Although Zarraza occasionally add the odd flourish to make the arrangements their own, purists will be pleased to note that the overall feel of these numbers is retained brilliantly. For the discerning thrash fan seeking out something familiar from a band that’ll probably be unfamiliar, this EP will be hard to beat.