Vertical Mass Grave

01. Family Crest
02. Scarless
03. Cun
04. Diapers
05. Brunt
06. Tubman Guntletter
07. Writhe
08. Blodeuwedd
09. Spooling Down
10. Redeemer

[Crack Nation]

It wasn’t too long ago when I mentioned a band named Czar that I rated as a mind-bending mix of prog, post-metal and pissed off grindcore. I had no idea at the time that multiple bands share that name, but in retrospect it does make sense. How many one-word band names aren’t already taken?  Anyway, the post-grind band is based out of Tacoma, Washington and are definitely worth your time. However, today I must bring to your attention Chigago-based Czar and their debut record Vertical Mass Grave.

Czar are a power trio of sorts, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Novak, guitarist Brian Elza, and drummer Dan Brill. Czar comes across as the offbeat and stoned-out breeding of Strapping Young Lad, Gojira, and Mastodon in a way that’s not only viscerally driving and groove-oriented with their sludgey downtuned rhythms, but also forward-thinking and progressive that challenges you mentally as well. All of this is compounded by the fact that the members have a background in industrial and drum n’ bass that seems to be absolutely disparate to what they’ve achieved on Vertical Mass Grave.

Vertical Mass Grave is very rhythmically driving, with the occasional math metal time signature changes and polyrhythmic assaults that keep listeners on their toes while maintaining a certain level of accessibility, making for an overall enjoyable time in both heart and mind. Czar are also somewhat unpredictable in which direction they’ll want to take their sound, going for the throat with the head-scratching complexity of “Brunt” and then managing to turn inward on the mindful post-metal styling present on “Blodeuwedd.” Czar are more than happy skipping around throughout the possibilities of the genre, but maintain a strong footing for a core sound.

Vocalist Jason Novak’s raspy and pissed off pre-sober Devin Townsend impression really suits the band’s sound, but the record is as much about the instrumentation, with a large chunk of the album focusing on the enigmatic songs themselves on several instrumental tracks. Perhaps Novak doesn’t have all that much to say, but when he does deliver vocals, it’s for all the right reasons. The tracks really do stand on their own legs, something that many of the newly trending instrumentally inclined prog bands fail to accomplish. Neo-tribal-esque drumming and massive riffs trudge this album through a dense and raw production that sounds like it was recorded in a garage down in NOLA somewhere, especially on tracks like “Tubman Gutletter.”

Czar are off to a great start here on Vertical Mass Grave. As a hodge-podge of all that is prog and sludge, they’ve opened themselves up for some great potential, and it’s only up from here. Given further exploration of their influences on both extremes of challenging and complex brutality and expansive and pensive instrumentation, and Czar could very well end up being largely influential in a few years. A band like Czar can only get better with further progression; hopefully they don’t get too comfortable with where they’re sitting. If they did though, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing at all.

Czar – Vertical Mass Grave gets…


– JR

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