Centurian — Liber Zar Zax (2002)

20.04.2002  :: АрхивАрхив рецензий Автор: Chris Alfano

One thing that has always bothered me about Centurian is their tendency to write mundane lyrics. It would be one thing if they were incapable of doing better, but this just isn’t the case. I was able to forgive the whole «blood/death/Hail Satan» theme that ran through their debut album (1997’s «Of Purest Fire»), because Centurian had successfully emulated the old-school death metal vibe without sounding overly derivative. When 1999’s «Choronzonic Chaos Gods» rolled around, however, my expectations ran a little higher. Given its more ominous title, I was hoping for an album that would see Centurian moving in a more conceptual direction. Unfortunately, my assessment was only half correct. While some of the lyrics were decidedly supernatural (in a Lovecraft-ian sense), others had apparently been left over from the previous album. Musically, this album showed that Centurian had become a tighter and more cohesive unit, and some tracks are still among their fastest to date. Nonetheless, these very same songs were (for the most part) undistinguished and hence, unmemorable.

Now that «Liber Zar Zax» has finally hit the shelves, I feel that Centurian is making considerable progress, in a musical sense, that is. The lyrics are still sort of….uh, well, just take a look at the song titles. In all fairness, some tracks («Dead Black Nucleus» and the title track) show a nihilistic slant, which seems to reference the work of such philosophers as Nietzsche and Heidegger. Whether or not the band actually realizes this might be a different story, however. Just the same, I can appreciate the slight (albeit brief) departure from their previous lyrical exploits.

Moving on to the finer points of this release, I would definitely give an affirmative «hail» to Centurian for cranking out some excellent death metal this time around. Most of the songs on «Liber Zar Zax» would place them among such technically-adept acts as Krisiun and Angel Corpse, but there are plently of instances where Centurian sets a standard that puts them beyond such categorization. Speed is still a huge factor here, but it is well-tempered with intelligence, melody, and chaos. The disc kicks off with a speedy ode to the Necronomicon entitled «The Reading (Zarzax Unto Zax)». I have to crack a smile at the possibility of this track being misconstrued as a reference to the old Dr. Seuss character, but nonetheless, it’s a good introduction to the sonic mayhem that awaits. Most of «The Reading…» is played with the same speed and aggression that hundreds of other bands are known for, but when guitarists Rob Oorthuis and Oskar Van Paradijs start trading off their fiendishly demented licks and warped chromatic-scale runs, you begin to realize that Centurian is offering much more than a standard trip through heavily-travelled waters. Another interesting device in the duo’s arsenal is their penchant for overlapping solos («Hell At Last»), which gradually build into a raging sphere of cacophony. As this volatile mixture heats up, the dual vibrato dives and perverse string-play teeter gradually toward that crucial line that separates order and total anarchy. Interestingly, the guitarists usually choose not to cross the threshold, and simply allow their songs to end in a simmering pot of molten chaos. As any fan can attest, bands of this type usually survive or perish by the rhythmic ingenuity of their drummer. In Centurian’s case, Oorthuis and Van Paradijs prove to be the defining crux, despite some the undoubtedly solid drumming of Wim van der Valk (who apparently has a fetish for alliteration), and a strong showing by bassist/bear-rapist extraordinaire Jerry Brouwer.

Of course, soloing rarely accounts for more than 1/4 of a guitarist’s output for any given song. What’s left are the riffs, which have to be mercilessly heavy in the absence of originality or innovation. Centurian’s riffs aren’t exactly unique, but they are played with enough fervor to satiate the discerning ear. «Colosseum of Blood» and «Speech Of The Serpent» are two characteristic examples, as both display a sound that could easily have come off the fretboard of Trey Azagthoth. However, it took me almost three listens to make the connection, so be assured that this band is striving to make a difference in the overpopulated death metal underground. From what I’ve seen on their web site, it looks like Centurian will be playing several festivals in Europe during the spring, so be sure to check them out if you can.

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