In a word: relentless. Wisconsin’s Zebras have crafted an all-out assault on their latest album, The City Of Sun.
In the grand throat-grabbing tradition of Ringworm, Integrity and Black Breath, nuance and subtlety are forgotten in favor of blunt-force trauma and concentrated energy. Slayer and High On Fire riffs duck into back alleys and smoke acid with sketchy hardcore dudes, emerging only to wreak havoc on everything.
One can be forgiven for thinking the first three tracks are a single song; not because they form a dull blur, but by the sheer ruthless intensity. The first moments of relief (if you can call it that) come in the slightly slower beatdowns of “The Bell” and “Baalbek”, though it’s more akin to a methodical hammer to the skull than any kind of respite. While Entombed is definitely a reference point, the trio never indulges in the now-standard Entombedcore tropes.
Zebras wasn’t always a terror train of hardcore and metal; the band’s earlier incarnation was more in the AmRep vein, with comparisons to Dead Kennedys and Lard. The addition of drummer Shane Hochstetler (who also recorded The City Of Sun) prompted the band to shelve all prior material and start fresh, much like Pantera did with Cowboys From Hell. Also surprising, given the heaviness of the songs, is the lack of bass. Lacey Smith adds a unique layer of analog synth to the proceedings, especially on the standout “Vitrified”, which sounds like Giant Squid covering a Nails track. There is nothing lacking in the bottom end, all the way through brutal closer “Filled With Fire”. At just over 32 minutes, The City Of Sun delivers as much vitriol and naked aggression as you’d find in a good episode of True Detective but in half the time.