First off: that artwork. It continues the themes presented on previous covers but taken to an even higher degree, and it sure is striking, what with it’s crusader style central figure and its heavenly wolves and its general OTT power metal-ness. Yet press play on the album, and the music is just as striking, in a far more impressive manner. Combining symphonic metal with that sense of Transylvanian darkness and mystery that Negura Bunget laid down the template for, as well as a progressive edge that recalls Arcturus, Zaul Mos – the fourth album by Syn Ze Sase Tri – is a grandiose, dramatic album of progressive, pagan black metal that is far more serious and striking than initial reactions to its artwork may suggest.
Zaul Mos wastes no time in throwing the listener head-first in to its world of complex guitar lines, shifting movements, and restless intensity. The opening track, ‘Tarimu De Lumia’ is the longest at almost eleven minutes, and is a bold way to open an album. It is very much a trial by fire, and the following tracks are more accessible – that’s not to say they’re any less complex, but rather than their shorter durations mean their ideas are presented in more compact, immediate ways that are easier to get a handle on. Second track ‘Din Negru Gind’ is one of the highlights of the album, taking symphonic, progressive black metal as its starting point but adding to it a sense of violence and muscular power than makes the song all the more effective. The impressive ‘De-A Dreapta Omului’ flirts with power metal at points – especially during its bombastic opening moments – and demonstrates just how willing the band are to disregard any sense of convention or musical conservatism. Each song is filled with ideas and movement, and it’s a marvel that Syn Ze Sase Tri kept them as lean and focused as they did – no matter how many riffs, keyboard melodies, or dramatic leads are found in a song, there’s always the sense that they are moving in a distinct direction, all working towards some grand purpose rather than being musical bloat.
Even so, there’s a lot to take in on Zaul Mos, and it will take several listens to even begin to get a proper handle on the album. Sure, there’s an immediate thrill to be found from the energy of the album, and the sheer joy of hearing a band combine so many ideas in such a coherent, exciting manner; but, as is the case with practically all music that is even vaguely progressive, many of the best traits of the album only reveal themselves after repeat listens. Even now, a dozen listens on, I’m still picking out new details, such as the background flutes on almost-ballad ‘Plecaciune Zaului’, and that is probably my favourite aspect of Zaul Mos. Each listen feels fresh, and I suspect it will continue to do so for many plays. This is a very impressive, ambitious record, and one that should see the profile of Syn Ze Sase Tri raised considerably.