The Cancer Empire by Zonaria
Release date : October 2008
Reviewed by Eric Stephens
In early July 2008, it was announced that Umeå, Sweden's Zonaria had inked a worldwide contract with Century Media Records. The act was formed in 2002 by vocalist / guitarist Simon Berglund and guitarist Emil Nyström, who were both fifteen at the time. Inaugural album Infamy and the Breed was issued during September 2007 via Pivotal Recordings, Zonaria having toured alongside the likes of Impaled Nazarene, Marduk, PAIN and Vader.
In mid September, the name of the group's second album was revealed to be The Cancer Empire. Slated for a mid October issue, its track listing was additionally unveiled. Produced by Fredrik Nordström at Studio Fredman, The Cancer Empire was mastered by Peter In De Betou at Tailor Maid. Designed by Pär Olofsson (who's undertaken commissions from the likes of Winds of Plague, Deeds of Flesh and Psycroptic), the album's artwork was disclosed soon after. Also, “Praise the Eradication” was made available for streaming via Zonaria's official MySpace page. In early October, “Contra Mundum” was made available for streaming, and footage from The Cancer Empire's recording sessions materialized.
Intricately designed, Zonaria's logo is the initial aspect which indicates that Black Metal looms upon the horizon. Immediately, The Cancer Empire's inaugural numbers prominently exhibit Thrash. Disguised, however, are sprinklings of haunting melody, and a tinge of folkloric Metal at certain junctures.
Inaugurated via orchestral sounds as well as a marching drum beat, “Slaughter Is Passion” spontaneously growls into a Metal fury. Oddly enough, this is one of a few select cuts which particularly employ a folkloric Metal chant, something that materializes during the chorus. Throughout The Cancer Empire's subsequent tracks, this component is missed. At any specific juncture, each instrument is distinctly audible, almost obtaining a perfect balance, and this is one of the full length's key ingredients. A great example of this, “Contra Mundum” begins courtesy of a splendid back and forth mixture of guitars from guitarists Simon Berglund and Emil Nyström, not to mention Markus Åkebo's thick bass sound. Lyrics (such as “the ascension to the darkness is the true path of human nature”, heard within “At War With the Inferior”) are placed upon on the lips of a menacing growl, all fused against a haunting Metal background, the Black Metal ambience all too genuine. Specific elements separate The Cancer Empire from merely being yet another underground album, elements perhaps best illustrated by swansong cut “The Icon and the Faceless”. A slow, monumentally melodic demeanour builds the composition, and this immediately transforms into grinding Metal, and subsequently shifts towards Black / Thrash Metal.
The Cancer Empire isn't merely an album which heftily boasts straightforward, driving drum beats, and Thrash induced pacy guitars, and this is the central attribute which sets Zonaria apart from its Black Metal counterparts. Some riffs seemingly repeat themselves during some of the tracks, however, and this is The Cancer Empire's only wearisome facet. If the listener hears beyond this, and focuses upon the quality of each respective part being performed, then that listener will experience satisfaction with Zonaria's brutal Black Metal. Having heard other albums which feature Nordström's production, this reviewer feels that exploiting the man's services upon The Cancer Empire was a wise choice. Each respective member's individual talents and contributions very much shine, thus crafting a potent wall of sound.