July 12, 2013 | , | 3.5

Zozobra, Savage Masters

Zozobra: Savage Masters

It’s been a solid five years since we last encountered Zozobra, the Caleb Scofield (Cave In, Old Man Gloom) side project that produced a pretty solid debut in Bird of Prey. A good deal has changed since then, especially in terms of the band’s line-up. For this six song EP, titled Savage Masters, Scofield is accompanied by fellow Cave In members Adam McGrath (guitars, vocals) and JR Conners (drums). The result is a sound that is much different than that of 2008.

Zozobra have cleaned up the sludge a good deal throughout these six songs. Where previous music was thick with it, these are a bit more airy, though still contain a good bit of buzzing guitars. The focus has shifted from the experimental, as well, to a more streamlined sound that allows the guys play with the thundering bass, steady drums and catchier riff work. Now, that’s not to say that Scofield and crew have completely abandoned playing around with things. They haven’t. It’s just that the experimental elements have been toned down a good deal and used to accentuate the music or add a layer here or there instead of dominating a song.

“The Cruelest Cut” launches you head first into a ferocious squall of buzzing guitars, rumbling bass and thundering drums. There’s a decent bit of head banging groove being hurled at you once the guys settle into this one. The sound of Savage Masters is pretty damned beefy with a good amount of textured fuzz added to everything. “Venom Hell” is as catchy a song as you’re going to find on this EP. It’s got a solid rumbling rhythm and a bit of a Kylesa-like vibe to the guitars, but a bit darker. I love the burly opening riffage and rolling drums of “Deathless” as i pummels along at a steady pace. It’s a beast of a song and it carries a solid momentum through to the rolling and more varied “Black Holes.”

When all is said and done, Savage Masters serves as a transitional release. For one, it introduces fans to the band’s new line-up. Secondly, it’s a peak of what we may expect from Zozobra on the next full-length. And in all honesty, I can’t wait to hear what they come up with. I like a bit of experimentation in my metal (as heard on “A Chorus of War”), but I really like the stripped-down direction the band is moving toward.