Zud- The Good, the Bad and the Damned

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zud’s full length debut The Good, the Bad and the Damned is one of the coolest albums I have come across this year. I could easily just stop the review here and tell you to go buy the damn thing, but a sentence doesn’t tell you much now does it? The group is based out of Portland, Maine and plays what can best be described as a mixture of black metal, blues rock, and a little bit of psych rock with an emphasis on lengthier instrumental jams. What this turns into is a release that has plenty of familiar elements, but doesn’t completely sound exactly like anything else out there.

Plenty of bands have taken the rawer black metal sound and aesthetic and applied it to other genres. After all, some of the earliest variants of the style took a speed metal or traditional heavy metal sound and changed the tonality. But Zud comes across as different from the norm, a large part of which is due to their emphasis on longer compositions. Aside from the short intro track, the other four songs on The Good, the Bad and the Damned fall between eight and thirteen minutes in length which gives the instrumentalists plenty of time to hop between styles. There are sections where the riffs are oriented towards dissonant walls of sound and blasting that wouldn’t sound out of place on a number of other black metal albums, but the band never sticks with them for too long often transitioning into lengthier riffs and solos that have more of a rock feel. When this occurs, to my ears it sounded like the group was pulling in elements of classic/blues rock, traditional heavy metal, and even a little bit of psych rock thanks to the sprawling, spaced out nature of the guitar solos. It’s a combination that might not sound quite as exciting on paper, but when put into practice it’s truly captivating and Zud has the chops to make sure that the material remains interesting for its entirety. The harsher black metal mixed with raw in your face rock and a hint of psychedelic madness is a style I didn’t know I wanted until I came across this release, and now I just want to keep going back to it.

The primary vocal style on this release is a raspier scream that reminded me quite a bit of Jamie Walters from Midnight. While it’s not exactly the same pitch, the level of distortion to the performance and the way that the words seem to cut through the sound and grab your attention has a similar effect and this made the material instantly appealing. The group has put a number of different samples into the tracks, but they are used in a way that integrates well into the arrangements and never seems too drawn out. I also heard some backup vocals that were different in pitch from what lead singer Justin had to offer but they didn’t seem to appear that often, so perhaps this is an area the group could further expand upon. While the extended instrumental sections may be what attract certain listeners, the vocals are just as strong and never feel like an afterthought.

The Good, the Bad and the Damned is one of those releases that grabbed me right from the beginning, and the raw energy and spaced out instrumental jams mixed with the harsher dissonance of black metal works in a way that gives Zud a distinctive style of their own. I imagine there is room for the group to expand upon these ideas even further, and if they can keep the level of songwriting at the same level as this debut then there will be a lot to look forward to. Grab this one and crank it up, and I’ll be continuing to do as this is the type of disc I expect to get a lot of mileage out of.

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