IZŌ is a 4-piece instrumental sludge/doom band from Lecce, Italy, made up of Paolo and Maurizio on guitars, Francesco on bass, and Luca on drums. Influenced by Sludge and Doom heavy hitters such as Sabbath, Electric Wizard and Mastodon, their overall sound is reminiscent of a more psychedelic Kylesa, flawlessly combining sludgy riffage with up-tempo stoner segments and hypnotic clean passages. Their self-titled debut offers an impressive set of tracks which are well worth the listen.
After a short and to-the-point intro provided by the first track, IZŌ(Intro), the main portion of the album opens with “We Are What We Are”, setting the tone with a hard-hitting and relatively straightforward sludge/stoner track in which influences from bands such as Yob are readily apparent. Though perhaps the most simplistic track of the album, “We Are What We Are” is by no means boring – the track expertly straddles the line between sludge and stoner rock, keeping the listener on their toes with a number of changes in pacing and mood. The drumming is especially noteworthy, and while this remains true for the extent of the album, this track in particular allows drummer Luca to really let loose.
The next track, “Hikikomori”, is where the album really starts to come into its own. Opening with a clean intro that would be right at home in a Cult of Luna release, it takes a brief tour through post-metal territory before returning to another section of powerful stoner riffage. This then transitions into an extended clean passage which showcases IZŌ’s artistic versatility and solidifies “Hikikomori” as a personal highlight of the album – a series of jazzy post-rock guitar lines driven by a catchy bassline which build up into a spectacularly heavy outro riff.
Track number four, “Kikusai” opens with meandering psychedelia-soaked guitars accompanied by sparse drums and background ambience. The length of the intro passage works in the track’s favour as it lulls the listener into a trance before snapping them back with a series of ballsy riffs, heavily evocative of bands such as Kylesa. This track is probably the best representation of IZŌ’s sound as a whole, offering a perfect balance between calm psychedelia and pounding riffage.
Track five, the intriguingly named “EuTONEsia”, brings another shift back into the realms of post-metal, if only for a moment, with a neatly-executed atmospheric intro that paves the way for a blistering crescendo of incredibly catchy stoner riffage. The sheer power behind the last few riffs makes this track another personal highlight of the album.
The final track, “MudMut”, while labelled as an outro, is also a great piece of music in its own right. Following a more simplistic formula than previous tracks, it offers a condensed reminder of just how hard IZŌ’s riffs can hit – just in case you had forgotten in the brief gap between tracks five and six.
Overall, IZŌ’s debut is an extremely solid album, and is highly recommended for those who like a bit of psychedelia in their sludge. Each track has a distinct, recognisable character of its own which makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable. This is an album that demands to be played at maximum volume.
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