Got 20 Minutes to Spare? Get Wrecked by Ziggurat’s Debut EP!
Late last month, Caligari Records sent me a rather nonchalant email about a new EP from Israeli black/death firebrands Ziggurat! Refreshingly, Caligari’s PR rep decided to forego the usual metalsphere’s proclivity for delightfully unhinged hyperbole and simply noted that the music would do the talking. Well, H, you’re right. This EP rips, and I can’t stop spinning it!
Ritual Miasma, on its surface, is a twenty-minute monolith of black tar growls, unrepentant blasts, and howling wind tremolo lines. It’s a whirling, furious scorcher that will leave you burnt to a crisp and hungry for more at the end of its brief run, just as any good EP should. Digging a little deeper beneath the shifting sands, however, you’ll find a surprising amount of nuance and ingenuity peeking out between the dunes like forgotten monuments to ancient glory.
The album commences with the requisite atmospheric setter, but this mercifully short introduction works well to set the tone for the craggy, ashen tracks that follow. Are those howling djinn gibbering in the background? Is that mournful melody a call to crepuscular combat? How black will my lungs be by the end of this smoke-billowing EP?
Thankfully, these questions and more are answered as soon as the first proper song kicks into gear. “Summoning the Giant Serpent” is a massive track backed by an absolutely blistering (see, hyperbole!) blast beat rhythm and a labyrinthine riff with subtle Phrygian phrasing evocative of giants like Nile, Set, or Melechesh. Over the course of the track, the main riff stealthily reshapes as the pace of the drums slows down to a slightly more primitive double bass assault rather than a full-tilt blast. Whatever the rhythm, those riffs deliver; they aren’t terribly novel, but they are deeply satisfying.
The heaviness doesn’t relent across the next few tracks. While “Summoning the Giant Serpent” leaned more toward the death metal end of the black/death spectrum, “Blind Faith” buries listeners in obsidian sand. Those windswept, frigid melodies paired with the crisp d-beat may sound slightly out of place after such a sweltering opening, but like the desert itself, Ritual Miasma is a multi-hued work with changes in tempo, tone, and temperature. Like a cold desert night under the expanse of infinite stars, it can freeze after it burns.
While “דיבוק” shows off more primal riffs and spirited leads, it’s final track “Death Rites Transcendence” that unveils the full scope of Ziggurat’s conceit. This track is a moody, leering piece, fully of glowering, sinister riffs and prominent cymbal-work to accent the sandstorm atmosphere like little bolts of lightning. If you listen to any track off this EP, make it this one. Its centerpiece riff is by far the most compelling, its groove the most powerful, and its sporadic shifts in construction and pace revealing the grand, ancient design lurking just beneath the rolling dunes. In fact, Ziggurat are their strongest when the blasts take a break to allow the esoteric melodies and ritualistic beats to lock into a worshipful, vocal-less revelry that culminates the entire EP. It sounds absolutely huge and hints at greater depth to come.
Ritual Miasma is out now on Caligari Records. Get it here and spend twenty minutes of your day doing something worthwhile.