Zafakon – Release (Self-Released)

Tuesday, 1st December 2015
Rating: 9/10

Since their 2010 inception, San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Zafakon have been making plenty of waves internationally through their thrash/death cross-pollination style. Self-financing product plus brief touring stateside, solidifying the lead guitar slot in 2013 through Yhann Ortiz pays dividends for their second full-length release, ironically entitled…Release.

Choosing to spread out a three part mini-story while weaving in normal songwriting gives the album dynamic character and anticipation, as “Conveyor of Shame”, “Sirens”, and the title cut contain certain licks that work together for continuity, driving the themes home on multiple word and music levels. The feel of much of the songwriting has taken on an advanced progressive execution in terms of the tempo changes, heads down speed picking, and numerous riff to clean shifts that unfold track to track – beyond the jazzy, schooled lead measures Yhann displays during stunning efforts such as “Ecosfear” and “Phantom Scream”. Still thrash/death oriented, you can tell that the band upped their progressive game in a lot of the hyper-quick bass and drum changes from Weslie J. Negrón and Nicolás Burgos respectively – one minute almost punk-ish, the next incorporating Latin jazz/ swing slam movements during the aforementioned opener “Conveyor of Shame”.

Guitarist Marcus Veit has the acidic thrash roar down pat at the mic helm – almost demonic even during more of a standard thrash effort like “Twisted Brains” as you feel ‘this is warfare’ bellow deep into the chest against the double bass and churning riffs. Expanding beyond Bay Area thrash or Florida death horizons into more technical Dream Theater/Rush territory with groove textures on the 4:38 instrumental “Valor Y Sacrificio” should illustrate that beyond strong songwriting that this quartet seriously dig deep into their execution and obvious mastery of their instruments. The epic nine minute closing title cut begins in heavier Lamb of God terrain thrown through the doom cycle, shifting to cleaner instrumental transitions that ebb and flow as you go through the sonic clouds, the lead break spacious and intoxicating.

Seeking out Andy Classen for mixing and mastering brings Release up to that level of professionalism Zafakon needs to reach the next level – where labels like Century Media, Metal Blade, and the like take notice. War Is a Drug got people to the table, but through this album, their path could be set in stone for others to follow as this is passionate, powerful, and progressive thrash/death worth savoring.

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