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The World Is Quiet Here - Zon review

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Band: The World Is Quiet Here
Album: Zon
Style: Progressive metalcore
Release date: January 2023

01. Argo Navis: Solar
02. White Sun
03. Ossuary
04. Heliacal Vessels I: The Mothers Of No Kin
05. Heliacal Vessels II: In The Unity Of The Lake
06. Aphelion
07. Moonlighter
08. Writhing Gate
09. Impetus I: Torrid Sands

The World Is Quiet Here... supposedly; I can’t say that ‘quiet’ is a word that passed through my mind much while listening to Zon. This is probably the most ambitious album I’ve heard so far in 2023, and it may end up being the most ambitious one all year; after a dozen listens, I’m still pondering quite how fully Zon delivers on that ambition.

This is the second album from The World Is Quiet Here, coming five years after aptly titled debut record Prologue. In the interim, there’s been a change of vocalist, with Lou Kelly behind the mic this time around. Zon clocks in at 65 minutes, but is conceived as a single song broken up into multiple tracks. That is a description that could also be applied to Between The Buried And Me’s classic album Colors (right down to the length, as there’s only a minute between the two’s runtimes), and Colors is the most obvious place to start when introducing Zon to new listeners.

So where does Zon stand in relation to Colors? Well, this is a very proggy album, and it has metalcore and extreme metal in the equation, along with a good amount of Between The Buried And Me’s wackiness. The main way in which it diverges from Colors is in how clearly this is the product of a post-Periphery world, as the primary riffing style across this album is thick, groovetastic djent. It’s not always so; some of the more extreme technical passages in the likes of “Moonlighter” take the BTBAM comparisons to the next level, while other portions of Zon bring to mind Devin Townsend and modern Opeth, the latter especially so later in “Heliacal Vessels I: The Mothers Of No Kin”. At the same time, that djent crunch is a critical component to Zon, working very nicely alongside the prog/death/core sections.

In terms of positives, there is a lot to admire in Zon; you can clearly tell that so much of this record has been immaculately thought out. The technical level here is hugely impressive, but there’s still clear respect for the satisfaction that groove brings, with no greater example than in “Heliacal Vessels I: The Mothers Of No Kin”; there’s a moment about 3 minutes in where the band temporarily pull back for the beginning of a new groove, one that they allow to brew on the guitar alone for a while, and when everyone rejoins, the urge to bop along is irresistible. Another major factor of this album is the new guy; Kelly’s harsh vocals are relatively usual fare for the style, but this clean singing is something else, with an exuberance to it that will have the capacity to divide, but which adds so much character to Zon. The low, dramatic bellows in the quirky “Ossuary”, the richness of the vocals in the main hook of “Aphelion” (repeated in “Impetus I: Torrid Sands”), the capacity to carry some form of melody even when intensifying and harshening the delivery in the more extreme passages: it’s all very impressive.

Zon is brimming with ideas, a lot of which are very good ideas, and normally this would be a point where I dive deeper into some of those examples, but the fact that I’m not inclined to do so is an indicator of why my opening paragraph showed signs of reservation towards this album. Honestly, there is so much going on in Zon, I wonder if there’s a bit too much; I’ve listened to this record over a dozen times now, which is right on the upper range in terms of replays I give an album before writing a review, but setting aside the aforementioned groove in “Heliacal Vessels I: The Mothers Of No Kin” and the vocal hook in “Aphelion”/”Impetus I: Torrid Sands”, I’m struggling to remember much of Zon once I reach the end of a playthrough.

One could argue that this is just a result of how detailed and complex this album is, and that you need to give it X numbers of plays for it to all fall into place, and that reaching this point will be such a rewarding journey. I’m certainly not ruling that out as a possibility, but I am also inclined to suggest that this lack of memorability might be related to some minor flaws in terms of album flow and structure. Colors is also a full-on extravagant experience, but BTBAM really knew on that record when to let things breathe, and how to emphasize the most memorable passages in each song, and I think that is something that is perhaps lacking from Zon; there's so much content here, but not enough of it is either innately memorable enough, or positioned within the songs in a manner that makes it stand out.

This is the first record in a while that I’ve opted against scoring a review, because I’m torn over it; I feel like there’s enough substance in Zon for it to end up as one of the standout records of the year, and maybe even more than that, as I spend more time with it. In the moment of listening to it, there’s some really impressive and satisfying material in here; the two-part 23-minute “Heliacal Vessels” in particular has a litany of great sections in it, as do “White Sun” and “Moonlighter”. However, a lot of the feelings I have towards Zon at the moment are ones that I had about Native Construct’s Quiet World at the time of its release (note: Native Construct’s Poh Hock is a guest on this record), which was an album that received similar levels of adulation in prog-metal fan circles to what I’ve seen with Zon, and the reality is that I’ve not listened to Quiet World in probably 5 years, and have no real inclination to do so.

All I can say for now is that Zon is the kind of super-ambitious ‘let’s make a masterpiece’ endeavour that I can appreciate for the effort alone, and it’s an album that fans of modern prog-metal should make sure to check out to see what they can take from it. Whether it ends up simply being a very good album that’s slightly handicapped by a lack of memorability or reveals itself to be something greater than that for me, only time will tell.

Written on 09.02.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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