Having a vital member of the band move halfway across the world hasn’t stopped France’s Zapruder from enjoying themselves. Others would have felt the blow of their vocalist leaving way harder than this particular rock’n’roll act. Over two and a half years since everyone’s favourite Heavy Blog cretin wrote about their last offering of souped-up mathcore, Zapruder are back with a big, bold as brass record that swings piss-drunk from the light fixtures, gleefully throwing shit at the walls. Their sound amplified and influences shining proudly through the fog, this mathcore band have surpassed the genres barely existent boundaries and come out the other side sounding like an all-new, all-weird beast entirely.
2016’s Fall In Line was a suitably chaotic barrage of sludgy math riffs and zany vocal ticks. This falls self-titled release has enough of that familiar mayhem to retain the identity of Zapruder but increases the scope of what a rock band can do with the basic elements of rock music – just with a lot more sexy saxophone this time. It’s bizarre but the weakest tracks on Zapruder are the ones that are most similar to previous material. “Martin Bell” is the least inspiring slice on the record, held down to the stage by some just okay riffs and mathcore moments. “Dracula Love Hotel” is the other typically Zapruder track, it’s major motifs and hooks just a touch too similar to an Exotic Animal Petting Zoo track (don’t ask which one, it evades me at the moment). While not awful, they clog up the middle section of a record that is otherwise seamless, and flawless. Also just a little bit too much of that Greg Puciato false falsetto, methinks.
The sheer swagger of “I Left My Appendix In NYC” blows this record wide open from the get-go with a Clutch meets Torrential Downpour air of exuberant, dirty blues. Switching from a bombastic swinging riff into maniacal math metal, Zapruder know exactly how to kick off a party. Both “Half Stache Man” and “Back In Town” deviate from the beaten path of stabbing chords and calculus time signature exercises, each track taking a huge turn for the better with an anthemic post-metal midsection in the former and an eerie, instant earworm of a vocal hook a la Alice In Chains on the latter.
At this stage of the review, it would be criminal not to throw a spotlight on the completely fucking bonkers “Piss Soaked”. Dissonant and devilishly groovy, the track breaks out in a serious case of hives when a party whistle and polka beat become the two most “normal” parts of the breakdown/hoedown/ full-scale mental collapse that follows. Everyone remembers the first time they heard Mr. Bungle doing something similar, whether it was “Squeeze Me Macaroni” or “Desert Search For Techno Allah”; a new generation of musos will remember scratching their heads when this ditty absolutely roars out of leftfield with whiskey breath and a set of bongos under each arm.
The sultry sax is a friend of Zapruder’s, and subsequently will become a close acquaintance of anyone brave enough to embark on this wild journey with them. “Leaving Montreal” embraces the soulful sound of the brass instrument, it’s timbre slithering over a delicate but thick bass groove and bringing to mind some sort of twisted neo-noir movie; the kind of movie that entire internet metal communities would claim as their Fight Club or American Psycho. It’s smokey and sexy and sleazy and a bunch of other words that alliterate and slip from the tongue. When the brass starts belting out again in the finalé, it doesn’t overstep or overpower, instead it feels just as important a part of the band’s sound as the wild, snappy percussion and crisp, grinding strings. Tastefully executed, the sax tracks are easily this cool cat’s favourites.
Zapruder have emerged from their relative silence with a wonderfully indulgent collection of sounds, but it’s difficult to say where this record belongs among the releases of 2018. Hardcore fans who want to get weird will be bowled over by the insanity and technical excellence, Daughters fans will turn their noses up at the more derivative and ‘basic’ mathcore elements. That’s okay, this wacky collage of rock music components isn’t an easy listen. Anyone who enjoys bizarre food combinations or likes their death metal playlists to have some ABBA thrown in, listen up – Zapruder have made a record with their friends, full of the types of music they enjoy and it is better than 99% of the metal being lauded as “groundbreaking” or “innovative”. Say what you will about the blatant lack of cohesion or recurring themes, this is a house party of epic proportions going down on the last day of Earth and someone invited a jazz band. Make sure you bring your own beer.