Czar – Vertical Mass Grave (Crack Nation)

Saturday, 23rd March 2013
Rating: 7/10

Maybe we should all set up shop in Chicago and just watch bands appear before our eyes. The city probably has more metal bands per capita at this point than any other city in North America (note: They probably don’t; we’re simply exaggerating), and it’s a good thing that most don’t stink. If they did, then we could levy all sorts of funny jokes about how bad the Cubs are, or how the Bears are bottoming-out. Then again, this scribe has no room to talk – Cleveland sports teams have nothing to write home about.

Vertical Mass Grave is Czar’s debut full-length, the follow-up to 2009’s self-titled EP. In terms of where the band lands, it’s another heavy-handed mash-up of disparate styles, from stoner, to fluid melodic metal, all the way over to post-rock. In between it all, the trio manages to lay down some relatively catchy songs; nothing all that innovative or worthy of deeper investigation. Such things are bound to happen when you put so many things on the cutting the board.

Vocalist Jason Novak avoids the blustery death roar of his contemporaries, opting for a clean-sung approach that has a resounding ring to it on “Tubman Gutletter.” Novak picks his spots in which to sing, which serves a lot of the albums’ relatively complex and free-wheeling nature well, especially on the technical “Brunt” and atmospheric “Bloduwedd.”

As progressive as Vertical Mass Grave is, the impactful moments are few and far between. Czar’s methods of challenging the listener are probably sincere, but sometimes, we just want to get down and rock and forget about how manybands one has tucked under your cap. Hopefully Czar will remember that next time out.

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