Zatokrev – The Bat, The Wheel, and the Long Road to Nowhere (Candlelight)

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013
Rating: 6/10

Apparently, there’s a lot to gain from being part of the sludge rank-and-file. You get accepted quicker, people become less prone to comparing you to other bands, and if you have even the slightest differentiator, you’re golden. That’s how Switzerland’s Zatokrev comes across on their The Bat, the Wheel, and the Long Road to Nowhere album, their third full-length to date. Strip the shiny production off this thing and you have what basically amounts to a generic, Americanized sludge album, complete with yawn-inducing instrumental breaks, monotone vocals, and generic riffs.

Aside from the gripes and rather pointed barbs at sludge (count Dead Rhetoric out, for the most part), Zatokrev sometimes come precariously close to making something out of themselves. When a melodic peak beckons, the band steps right up (see: “Goodman Lights”), only to scuttle it with a disharmonic note selection. Choosing to do this keeps the band out of post-metal territory, but it also throws the album into an unseemly malaise of played-out songwriting aesthetics, most notably the exhaustingly tedious “Medium” and “The Wheel,” two songs the band wisely placed at the halfway mark. It’s sink-or-swim from there, and it’s obvious the band is sunk.

The clear separator with The Bat, the Wheel, and the Long Road to Nowhere is the production, which is massive and steely. It portrays this Swiss gang in a different light when in reality, they’re no better than any third-tier sludge band going right now. Hey, at least Zatokrev tried to sound professional; some of these bands couldn’t do that if a gun were held to their heads.

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