Review
Psalm Zero
Stranger to Violence

Profound Lore (2016) Spyros Stasis

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence cover artwork
Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence — Profound Lore, 2016

The main man of Psalm Zero, Charlie Looker, has been/still is part of some great bands. The avant-garde mentality of Zs, with their merge of neo-classical, noise and free-jazz shows a great allure towards experimental music, while his presence in the mathcore trio Period, reveal a high-level of technicality. Well, Psalm Zero continues to unveil different aspects of Looker's musical identity. Initially formed with Andrew Hock, of supreme black metal act Castevet, the duo released an excellent record in The Drain back in 2014. Mechanical drum beats, big synths, razor-like guitar riffs and pummelling bass lines followed their concepts, depicting an extreme art-metal direction.

Two years have passed since The Drain, and today Psalm Zero return, with Hock just a contributor this time, and their sophomore full-length, Stranger To Violence. There is a quite significant shift in terms of sound, with Psalm Zero producing a fairly mellower version of their music, while retaining the diversity of their sound. The industrial-esque landscape is still there, the leanings to darkwave and early '90s melodic doom metal territories are dominating the lead work, while the new wave tone is more firmly established. As a result, the extreme metal aspect has subsided slightly, with the band including less harsh vocals and dissonant pieces, even though there are still a few explosions strategically placed in the album.

However, it is that pop sensitivity that actually pushes this album over the top. The structures of the tracks are more direct, and the choruses and crescendos bring more energy to the table. It is actually reminiscent of the approach that Woods of Ypres took in their last few albums, and especially Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light, even though they did not possess the experimental mentality of Psalm Zero. Their adventurous style gives them the capability of providing a more intoxicating groove for their track, mesmerising sceneries, acoustic passages which wash over towering industrial beats. The easy-listening side of the '80s new wave scene, and the spiderweb-like melodies, are complimented with industrial weight and distorted shoegaze-like guitars.

It is also an impressive accomplishment on how Psalm Zero are able to layer and arrange the instrumentation of the album. From the first notes of the opening track, the manner in which the guitars and synths co-exist, without one overpowering the other is stunning. The foundation rooted on industrial provides a solid basis, the synths provide the atmospheric tone, appearing like gentle showers in “Real Rain” or ear-piercing dissonance in “White Psyche,” and the new wave tone, with the big vocal delivery, give the necessary energy, which also switches through extreme metal infusions or punk tones. Psalm Zero have managed to bring this straightforward element to their music, without diminishing the scope of their vision.

Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence cover artwork
Psalm Zero – Stranger to Violence — Profound Lore, 2016

Related features

Psalm Zero

Interviews • October 31, 2016

Related news

New Psalm Zero this July

Posted in Records on April 20, 2016

Recently-posted album reviews

Hysterese

Hysterese
This Charming Man Records (2021)

The second record of German band Hysterese is a record I own and play quite frequently. To me it is one of those strange records that you enjoy a lot, but didn’t invite you to delve into their past or actively follow the band. Until now. As I saw the band name pop up in the heap of promos I … Read more

Alien Nosejob

HC2
Iron Lung (2021)

It seems that Jake Robertson spent a lot of the past year playing with himself. But haven’t we all? Bad jokes aside, the one-man band put out multiple full-lengths in 2020 and now a new 6-song EP too. Overall, the project is diverse, falling generally within the punk umbrella but different influences scattered as Robertson feels like it. But this … Read more

The Black Black

Careful on Your Way Out
Ewel Records (2021)

If one were to define post-punk as the departure from the musical rawness and simplicity of punk rock and the adoption of dancey rock elements, Brooklyn-based The Black Black would fit the bill quite well. Their third long-player spans eight tracks, which sonically traverse bass-centric territory between 1980s sentiments left in the wake of Joy Division and the groovy end … Read more