Weighty stoner-sludge metal intrumentals with a hefty dose of the surreal

Date: 26 Nov 2007
Publisher: Subba Cultcha
Written by: Paul Raven

Zonderhoof EPAfter lashing me to a large chunk of volcanic basalt and forcing me to drink a heroic dose of hallucinogenic fermented reindeer urine, the ghastly stinking horde of orcs have formed up into ceremonial ranks down the almost boundless length of the great hall, and now await their undead master to deliver judgement on the trespasser. The dread lord of darkness stalks forth from his throne room, between double doors of hand-carved obsidian decorated with silver runes of power, and paces slowly toward me up the centre aisle of the hall. His transparent ghostly feet float a few inches above the flagstones, but his demonic sword glints with the reality of cold ancient steel that spells my imminent death. I am doomed. However, thanks to the aforementioned reindeer urine, I am completely tripping my nuts off, and this is the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

None of the above passage is true, in case you were in any doubt. But that's exactly the scenario that was conjured in my head when I listened to the Zonderhoof EP. These three madmen take the funereal heaviness and pace of death and doom metal, blend in a bit of stoner rock for good measure, and then turn the silliness up to eleven.

Which isn't to say this is a comedy record, or even a full-on spoof. Zonderhoof have the cunning post-modernist knack of taking their music incredibly seriously, yet simultaneously realising that it is, when all's said and done, just music ... and hence worthy of having a bit of fun with.

So, spread across half an hour of your time are four instrumentals, delivered at a stately and patient pace, driven by loose drumming and basslines that growl like the stomach of a soul-deprived Beelzebub. Over the top of this rumbling powerhouse are fearsome guitar riffs that alternately follow the bass closely or wander off on little melodic excursions into discord. Seriously, as ridiculous as it seems, my opening describes the ultimate scene that this music should soundtrack: Lord Of The Rings on acid and bad grass; World Of Warcraft on a tequila binge; the frequently po-faced and anally retentive death and doom genre with its tongue - for a change - jammed thoroughly in its cheek.

I could be wrong, of course – maybe Zonderhoof are deadly serious about their music, and in days to come churches near my home will be burnt, pentagrams painted and small animals sacrificed. If that's the case, however, we can only wonder at the significance of the cheerily grubby garden gnome on the front cover. I think I'm safe in my assessment.

But what the hell, decide for yourself. The criteria for liking this record are a great fondness for the dark and heavy end of metal, with the ability to laugh at it and yourself at the same time. If that sounds like you, I suggest letting Zonderhoof put a big grin on your face. But whatever you do, don't drink from that communal mead-bowl.