Originally written by Chris Chellis.
Black metal is as convoluted a sub-genre as any that currently exists; so when a straight up, second wave and unapologetic Czech band like Sator Marte comes slithering within our perimeters like an unpretentious, single-minded snake, we welcome its blastbeat-ridden corpse like a gravedigger in heaven.
The almighty riff is what drives so many of us to heavy music, and as we climb the ladder toward metal’s Valhalla we inch closer to the genre’s more extreme crest. A great many of us fondly recall a select few venomous black metal riffs or songs that struck us over the head with a corked bat the likes of Sosa and McGwire have never seen. It’s that riff that gets you in that deadly crouch position, picking air guitar strings like you were launching lightning bolts down to Earth from the heavens.
I can’t help but settle on a shit-eating grin every time I think of the first time I spun De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. I ordered the damned thing online, unsure of what to expect because I wasn’t some pesky downloader like the rest of you bloodied leeches. All I knew was that I had to sit down with that mysterious record somewhere close to midnight, lie down looking up at the sky and hope for the best, not unlike the ritual we go through renting horror movies with our friends in our pre-teens. Listening to Za Zdmi doesn’t strike quite the same chord (no “Freezing Moon” here), but if I hadn’t listened to black metal before now I would certainly feel at least some of that same excitement, and that’s a hell of an endorsement.
If it weren’t clear from the outset, these Czechs stick to a tried and true second wave black metal aesthetic. While they have since moved away from the corpse paint and affected poses, their origin as Forgotten Art at the turn of the millennium reveals a perhaps more honest image. And despite their current photos giving off a modern Immortal vibe with the cool shades and leather, they are more equal part Darkthrone and Mayhem.
At just six songs and 31 minutes, Za Zdmi is one compact little bitch. It would be easy to say most tracks are mid-paced, but the truth is each one is an epic journey all itself. Svar’s drumming plays a decisive role in that respect, pushing the band along like a disciplinary schoolmaster. Album opener “Øemeslo Války,” with its early stop/start rhythm, is a great example of that sense of leadership and confidence. The melody pulls you in but that rhythm really challenges the listener to pay attention. What was cool about listening to black metal for the first time was the way in which it forced me out of my comfort zone. In other words, this isn’t metal comfort food. And it’s not Zagat-rated, either. It lies somewhere between the silkworm and the much more palatable fried tarantula.
The sense of cool confidence a song like “Koroze” emotes is what makes this album stand out. Not every band has the patience to let a riff build and the foresight to know when to move on. You’re never going to wonder to yourself when the hell things are going to pick up. This isn’t a black metal jam band, after all. Short, sweet and to the point, Za Zdmi is less fine wine, more hard liquor. And there ain’t a thing wrong with that.