No Zodiac – Altars Of Impurity

Having undergone a serious upheaval in personnel, the only remaining member of No Zodiac, drummer Erik Bartow, moved the band’s base of operations from Chicago, Illinois, where they originally formed in 2009, and relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. Successfully rebooted in a new city, the band have recorded Altars of Impurity (Siege Music), the follow-up to sophomore album, 2015’s Eternal Misery (Beatdown Hardwear).

Thematically, the band still cover the usual subjects of misanthropy and violence, but they’ve also moved in a slightly different direction away from their previous two efforts, introducing a more traditional Death Metal sound with a touch of Black Metal to sit alongside their brand of Slamming Beatdown Deathcore.

New vocalist Rolo Hernandez (aka RoLodiac) – albeit in possession of an admittedly fearsome roar – also appears to have a rather limited range which tends to become rather one-dimensional after a while. The band seem to address this by including a few guest spots, inviting the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder frontman Trevor Strnad to appear on the quite brilliant, Cannibal Corpse influenced, ‘Hung By The Tongue’, and Suburban Scum vocalist Ryan ‘Karebear’ Taylor to lend his distinctive voice to ‘Penance’, one of the album’s strongest tracks.

Although Bartow is clearly a talented drummer (even though his cymbal sound does occasionally resemble someone using an asthma inhaler), and while Brent Gutierrez (guitar), JJ Corirossi (guitar) and the wonderfully named Jeff Boozer (bass) all play their parts very efficiently, and even with its Death/Black Metal influences, the album does still give the impression of being a somewhat cautious affair with safety being the watchword ahead of boldness.

That’s not to say it’s devoid of quality though. No, no. ‘Santisima Muerte’, with its brooding intro and crushing riffs is a suitably punchy opener, ‘Corroded Soul’, ‘Swine’, and ‘The Tribulation’ are seriously nasty, and ‘God Never Came’ rounds off the album very well. Unfortunately, the bonus track, a reworking of ‘Population Control’ from the 2012 album of the same name, doesn’t hold a candle to the original.

Although still explosively raucous, the signs this time are of an understandably restrained band content to settle in the new line-up first before coming up with something a little more adventurous next time.