Rating:
6.7
Zonaria - The Cancer Empire
24 October 2008


01. Slaughter Is Passion
02. Praise The Eradication
03. Crowning King Cancer
04. Contra Mundum
05. Termination Process
06. At War With The Inferior
07. From The Abysmal Womb
08. Damnation Dressed In Flesh
09. Humanity Vs Sanity
10. The Icon And The Faceless
11. Mad World [Tears For Fears cover] [US digital bonus]


Melodic death metal is a dead horse, one which practically every Swedish band is continuously beating. Gone are the days when In Flames and At the Gates were producing groundbreaking material, which of course eventually led to hundreds of bands following in their footsteps. Zonaria is one such band, playing under the guidance of Century Media Records, a label that has left me with the bitter taste of disappointment for many years.

Zonaria try to break through the barriers of a cliché sound, but they forgot to bring something new to the table: they do not enhance the stability of the genre any further. Simon Berglund is a decent enough vocalist/guitarist, despite being hindered by a "too-tight" production, but his fellow musicians seem to have no feeling for the music. An album needs some form of strength beyond its aggressive guitar riffs and nonchalant blastbeats, and The Cancer Empire falls short in this area.

Generic drum work cannot carry an album on its own, as it leaves a blank feeling in the listener, and when the drums aren't supported by any decent melodies, the music becomes something paradoxical: it isn't crushing or weak, it isn't fast or slow, it isn't technical or sloppy -- it's just music. Perhaps the average listener will find their sound better than mediocre, perhaps slightly more aggressive than usual melodic death metal, yet there are far too many holes in the floor for this band to continue standing on. In an era where this genre is buoyed by bands like Amon Amarth, Mercenary, and Hollenthon, bottom-dwellers need to tap into their imagination and let it carry over into their songwriting.

Of course one cannot judge this band without taking their age into consideration: Berglund and Emil Nyström are each just 22 years old. They are the new kids on the block, respecting their roots, honoring influential bands such as Hypocrisy and Arch Enemy, but they need to find their own sound. Mind you, their age is vital in terms of how one can judge this sophomore slump. Looking ahead, there is more than enough time for each member to mature musically. However, if this album is any indication of their future, I would say Zonaria are going to be eaten alive in the scene. If they retrace their steps and build on their debut, this band will eventually become a tour de force.

For achieving their personal goal of combining aggression and melody, Zonaria have created a successful album in The Cancer Empire. Yet, they have not created anything new or outstanding. This has all been done before, and many steps need to be taken so ensure the band do not fall into a comfortability with their current style. The first step begins with seeking out new production management, which would benefit the overall realism of the vocals as they are often reminiscent of the computer-generated effects heard in Dimmu Borgir. The members need to do some soul-searching before jumping into a third album.

Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 6
Production: 7


Band profile: Zonaria
Album: The Cancer Empire


 


written by Troy Killjoy | 14.09.2009


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



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Valaskjalf - 15.09.2009 at 00:22  
Pretty accurate review, pity you didnt make a comparison to their previous album, "Infamy and the Breed" which I thought was much better, despite its blatant Hypocrisy worship. "Cancer Empire" just doesnt have enough hooks as the previous album...gets stale quite quickly.
Until the End - 15.09.2009 at 00:35  
I agree. The debut was much stronger and this was a bit of a let down.
Troy Killjoy - 15.09.2009 at 00:51  
Written by Valaskjalf on 15.09.2009 at 00:22

Pretty accurate review, pity you didnt make a comparison to their previous album, "Infamy and the Breed" which I thought was much better, despite its blatant Hypocrisy worship. "Cancer Empire" just doesnt have enough hooks as the previous album...gets stale quite quickly.


"If they retrace their steps and build on their debut, this band will eventually become a tour de force" was as close as I could get to comparing albums without spilling over 500 words. I also rated it as a 7.1 which is still fairly high, but I felt the songs on their own are decent enough to carry the album above the 6.x rating. The album overall is weak, which is a complete 180 from Infamy and the Breed. Now THAT was a solid release.
Aeox - 18.09.2009 at 15:30  
'For achieving their personal goal of combining aggression and melody, Zonaria have created a successful album in The Cancer Empire. Yet, they have not created anything new or outstanding. This has all been done before, and many steps need to be taken so ensure the band do not fall into a comfortability with their current style.'

I completely agree with you on that remark. Although I feel The Cancer Empire had a few more promising moments (especially on the first few tracks) then Infamy and the Breed - that album sounded too much like Hypocrisy, but without the significant presence of Peter Tägtgren and in my opinion it sounded like the band had trouble 'picking up speed' on Infamy and the Breed. The atmosphere of that record was good, but it became monotonous quite quickly.
Troy Killjoy - 18.09.2009 at 16:07  
Written by Aeox on 18.09.2009 at 15:30

'For achieving their personal goal of combining aggression and melody, Zonaria have created a successful album in The Cancer Empire. Yet, they have not created anything new or outstanding. This has all been done before, and many steps need to be taken so ensure the band do not fall into a comfortability with their current style.'

I completely agree with you on that remark. Although I feel The Cancer Empire had a few more promising moments (especially on the first few tracks) then Infamy and the Breed - that album sounded too much like Hypocrisy, but without the significant presence of Peter Tägtgren and in my opinion it sounded like the band had trouble 'picking up speed' on Infamy and the Breed. The atmosphere of that record was good, but it became monotonous quite quickly.


I was looking for more of a sign of progression on this album, being that Infamy and the Breed was the definition of Hypocrisy-worship. But it seemed to me like they tried desperately to maintain their "Hypocrisy sound" -- a swing-and-miss attempt -- with this album instead of taking their debut and constructing a more unique sound for themselves. One positive for the band is their familiarity with big-name producers, meaning they will have at least another chance to create something more original before they're completely labeled as copycats. A strong atmosphere hindered by monotony can only carry a band so far.
Aeox - 18.09.2009 at 16:36  
Definitely, I couldn't agree more - it sounds to me that Zonaria is sticking with what they find familiar and comfortable... on some songs they hint towards breaking out of this comfort zone - but given their collaboration in the past with Christian Älvestam (on Infamy and the Breed's, "Attending Annihilation") and this time around with Fredrik Nordström behind the recording and Per Ohlsson responsible for the cover sleeve, you as a listener expect something more from their second effort then just the norm.
Valaskjalf - 29.09.2009 at 05:05  
Yeah we had the discussion the other day and think we still differ on this, I get your point though - neither you or me really see them as the pioneers of a NEW melodic death metal, yet I feel they lost some of their power when getting their own sound. Sounds like a terrible thing to say but their music was more successful and likable when they tried to sound like Hypocrisy haha Now theyre just sort of neither here nor there.

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