Four years after their debut album made a splash in their native Ireland metal scene, the progressive sludge powerhouse zhOra are now poised to release a follow up, Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Described as “a sprawling tale of a bloodthirsty despot, his feral minions, alien visitation and the illusion of choice. Set to the backdrop of frozen tundras, scorching deserts and panoptical imprisonment.” Sounds like one boiling hot mess of a record, right? Well believe it or not, this record showcases the band on more refined form than previous efforts.
Don’t mistake the word refined for straightforward though, an extensive platter of sound and influence is being served up to the listener across this sixty minutes. Sinister chanting vocals and twinkling instrumentation bring the record to life on track one, The Stone, before the chants become growls and the guitars start to drive forward like a tank through hot tar. It’s a mere warm up jog compared to the chugging marathon sprint of Riverchrist, a song that switches things up by allowing the odd moment of respite before the next sonic bitch slap. Throughout the entire record you’re never far from the next bend in the road, every time it runs the risk of becoming background noise the listener is walloped with something new.
The whole thing isn’t as inaccessible as its loosely defined concepts would suggest, tracks like The Breach recall the early work of Mastodon, meaning fans of that could easily use this as a further step into the underground of progressive metal. What some, save for those initiated into the world of the progressive, will find a struggle is the length of the record. Especially at the middle section becomes a far more patient and spacious affair, Server, Seer, Soothsayer is the ultimate encapsulation of this, clocking in at eight minutes. It unfolds like three distinct tracks melded into one volatile beast of a song, paralleling the way in which zhOra have managed to package together a seemingly endless well of ideas and narratives into one, albeit one bonkers, album.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos sits within a small clearing of the forest that is progressive metal, far from the most accessible yet just as far from being the most exclusive. ZhOra have poured as much from the world of more mainstream metal into the melting pot as they have from the worlds of doom and sludge. If you’re ready to wade into the sludge of the underground, this could be the record for you.