With a sound as tempestuous and unforgiving as the dragon-infested rapids swallowing those of evil trying to cross the River of Three Crossings (The Sanzu River) in Japanese Buddhist tradition, Australian death metallers Sanzu make a potent introduction of themselves to the wider metal scene with debut EP Painless. Whether there is a link between band name and the way to the afterlife above we will have to find out, but certainly the Perth quintet provides a journey for ears and emotions with their release just as provocative and compelling.
Formed in early 2013, the Western Australia and subsequently the country’s metal scene have known about Sanzu and their technically ferocious, groove infested turbulence for a while now, but the unleashing of Painless gives the rest of us the opportunity to devour just as greedily their imposingly striking sound. The band is the creation of drummer Ben Stanley and guitarist Century, both former members of Malignant Monster. The addition of vocalist Zachary Andrews and bassist Fatima Curley took the band into the local live scene, their old-school death metal inspired by the likes of Morbid Angel infused with modern metal imagination recalling bands such as Gojira, quickly whipping up fans and attention. After the line-up was completed by second guitarist Mikey Hart, Sanzu ventured into the studio with producer George Lever to record their five track debut. The result was Painless, an uncompromising and gripping fury announcing the band as one seriously exciting newcomer hitting extreme metal.
The EP is instantly stalking and ravaging ears through opener 18 Days of Rain, riffs and rhythms ravenous predators bound in wiry sonic tempting. The track makes a gripping and impressive entrance, continuing that potency as grooves begin winding their way around the hostile spine of the song and the equally intensive examination of Andrews’ vocals. As inhospitable and enraged as it is, the raw tempest is ripe with spearing sonic intrigue, rabid unpredictability, and a web of tech and progressive tenacity, the song rigorously seducing the listener as it tears strips from their senses and psyche.
The immense start just keeps going in the individual animus of For All, vocals and grooves instantly searing air and ears whilst just as swiftly the song’s landscape twists and turns in on itself to persistently wrong-foot and enthral. Though it is hard to say the band’s sound is majorly original, there is an ingenuity and freshness to its creative malevolence and craft which announces Sanzu as no run of the mill or expectations feeding incitement. The encounter is the perfect example with anything familiar quickly woven into an unrelenting and almost psychotically tenacious maelstrom of ideas and imagination.
The following Defamer brings a swarm of waspish coaxing from its first breath, eventually employing them in a rhythmically sadistic and sonically antagonistic prowl governed by the outstanding squalling tones of Andrews. Every aspect of the band is at the top of its game though, the bold and carnivorous swings and bass groans from Stanley and Curley respectively imposing and inescapably addictive against the savagery and magnetic exploration sculpted and released by the guitars of Century and Hart. This collusion applies across the whole of Painless in varying forms, but arguably is given the biggest pedestal to shine from through the gloriously malicious terrain of the third track.
Intensity and rabidity takes an even more voracious spin with Variant Red next, the track a tempestuous tsunami with less defined textures and scenery than in previous songs but replacing them with emotional turbulence and unbridled bitterness in air and intent. Into its depths though, the storm does clear enough for the guitars to openly spin a tapestry of imagination and inventive dexterity, a lure matched rhythmically and vocally. The provocation is superb, though that again applies to virtually every moment within the EP, but here, ears and thoughts are just spellbound whilst being twisted inside out.
The release is completed by Lunar Crush, a song which from a gentle melodic enticement brews and intensifies a jaundiced antipathy between it and the listener. Usually the oasis in the storm is in the middle of the song, but here it starts the evolution of venomous invention and despoiling intent, every passing minute, indeed second, leading into the jaws of carnal temptation and vicious adventure.
Painless certainly does not describe the experience of listening to the EP but for every nerve turned raw and emotion ripped asunder, the deepest instinctive pleasure emerges. Death metal has a new merciless provocateur in town and Sanzu is its name.
The self-released Painless EP is out now @ https://sanzu.bandcamp.com/album/painless-ep