Zud are a band you’ve got to hear. In their best moments, they conjure all of the emotional weight of post-black metal with none of the pretense or artifice. However, let me be clear: this is not post-black metal. It’s dirty, raw, black metal in the style of Midnight, with a similarly gnarly guitar tone and and rasped vocals spat with surprising intelligibility. Despite the indecorous rawness, Zud’s spacey, squealing solos take their time to wail and scream with all they’ve got, building into absorbing climaxes laden with soul. Zud’s solos aren’t technically impressive, but they’re arranged with that casual sort of mastery where just the right note is struck at just the right time.
As great as Zud’s solos are, their most recent album, 2013’s The Good, the Bad, and the Damned spends most of its time digging in the dirt with catchy, old-school riffs. The soul of the riffing is squarely in rock and roll, even if they are updated with a little tremolo picking. Zud are constantly genre-jumping within their songs, which helps to keep the 8+ minute tracks interesting and engaging. They can seamlessly slip between black ‘n’ roll, death, straightforward black, doom, and post-black in their raging solos. “The Junction” and especially “Skull Shaped Bell” are great songs to experience the array of Zud’s talents.
One of the more interesting things this very interesting band does is make heavy use of samples. The best example is the excellent closer “Dendrite Fumes”, where clean guitar strings and heartbeat percussion build tension over a sampled argument, until the metal explodes onto the scene. It’s not just an opening gimmick; the argument continues for some time, faint but unnerving, and pops up throughout the track.
The end of “Dendrite Fumes” (or for that matter, all of the album’s tracks) is really killer. The straining guitar solo has an improvised feel, but not in a disorganized, chaotic way. It feels improvised in the way that a jazz soloist improvises — notes that escape the body because they cannot be contained, because if they are not expressed the musician might burst. I’ve gotten that feeling on some great solos before, but never from a band that sounds anything like Zud. For that matter, I’ve never heard a band that sounds like Zud, period.
Maybe Zud themselves put it best. This is “rockin’fuckin’black metal from portland maine. Beware…”. Listen if you dare. You won’t regret it.