There are some bands that delivers music which is very difficult to be characterized and placed under the “folder” of specific musical genre. It is their inspiration that helps them to break waterproof simply delivering music that came from their heart and soul. Well Z-LOT-Z from Houston, Texas, USA was one of those bands.
Z-LOT-Z had a very special musical vision. To make things easier while referring to them I can point that they played Heavy Metal. OK… but this was done in such an adventurous complex, powerful and inspired way, that makes Z-LOT-Z to be a genre on their own inside the infinite Metal universe.
Arkeyn Steel Records releases the entire Z-LOT-Z back catalog on a double CD. “Anthology – Power Of One”. It features everything that the band has recorded so far. So this is a very good reason to take a closer look on their recordings, examining the complete package that is offered through this re-release.
The band’s initial recording was their “Demo 1992”. A key release that actually marks the band’s special Heavy Metal sound. All the demo’s six tracks are featured for the very first time on an official CD reissue and yes the “lost” “Stay Alive” track is included. Why this track is mentioned as “lost”? Because it was included only on the initial press of the demo, on cassette back in 1992. Molten Metal USA, had reissued the demo recordings on a Mini CD entitled “92”, back in 2000 but the “Stay Alive” track was left out. It was replaced by the “In My Heart” song which was an outtake from the band’s second album. Go figure… The same label did a reissue of the “Tearing Up your Mind” debut on 2002 adding the 1992 demo material as bonus. “Stay Alive” was missing again.
I am first referring to the demo recordings although they are included in the Arkeyn Steel reissue as bonus stuff, because they actually mark the beginning of an ultra creative era for the band and in my opinion they are some of the best compositions that Z-LOT-Z have ever created. “Shadow” is a dark and enigmatic Heavy Metal masterpiece with various Prog touches. “Road To Nowhere” represents this dark-shaded special songwritting that we would be able to meet on later Z-LOT-Z recordings and I got to surely point that I consider the “Who’s the Believer” track as one of the best that the band had ever composed.
On 1995 the band privately released the “Tearing At Your Mind” debut which is considered by those who follow the band’s discography as the absolute Z-LOT-Z trademark. All the Z-LOT-Z magic is captured on the recordings of this debut. A perfect balancing between the darkness and light generated under the special Z-LOT-Z way. Rightfully arranged compositions full of greatly performed and sometimes a little bit surrealistic as per their aesthetic, guitar themes, that are regenerating each song’s vibe minute by minute. The vocals are playing their part in this regeneration as well. From sad and enigmatic verses to happily expanded choruses or the opposite. It can not be described easily. I am repeating myself in here: This is Z-LOT-Z magic my friends. “Tearing Up your Mind”, “Power of One” and “Eye Of The Beholder” are for sure the absolute picks of the release. However I would like to focus on the “Eye Of The Beholder” track mainly due to the amazing usage of the phrygian scales. A feature that finally characterized some of the best compositions of the band.
“Soul Existence” is the band’s second and last album from 1998. It presents an amazing sound evolution and some more examples of incredible songwriting. More extended still into the point and catchy themes. Even more melodically narrative vocal lines and a very special song development that keeps the listener focused from start to finish of every track. “Whirlwind” is another great example of phryggian scale usage but it is also blessed with some outstanding Prog riffing and an amazing lead part. And of course I should refer to my personal Z-LOT-Z favorite of all time: “Remember”, developed under an adventurous rhythm section, carrying an into the point Prog attitude, this song simply signs. Here I got to point that the overall rhythm section is a key feature on each and ever Z-LOT-Z composition. It is often the tool that the band uses to perform those magical musical transformations between song parts. Oh yes and the keyboards. The secret Z weapon!
There are even more bonus tracks included the current Arkeyn Steel reissue: I have already mentioned “In My Heart” which is an outtake from the “Soul Existence” sessions (1998). It was used as bonus track on the “92” Mini CD that Molten Metal USA put out back in 2000. It is included in here as well. There is also a gorgeous live version of “The Shadow” track from 1992 plus an acoustic version of the “Shelter” track which was also recorded back on 1992 during the Metalurgy cable TV show.
As far as the sound quality I must point that an overall great job has been done -once again- by Kostas Scandalis, mastering from scratch and remastering the Z-LOT-Z material. Arkeyn Steel Records have managed to track down the original DATs of the demo and the debut album, so Scandalis actually did a completely new mastering on those recordings as he had access to the original unmastered material. You may already own the Molten Metal USA reissues (of the demo and the debut) that were released during the early 00s, well I got to inform you that the sound of the specific recordings, on the current Arkeyn Steel anthology is huge and much better than the early 00s reissues that I happen to own as well -so I did this little side by side test-. The recordings of the second album have been remastered from the original 1998 CD which was the only available source, no DATs in here but still an amazing result.
Well I can finally say it out: Justice is done to this amazing band. This reissue represents their works in the best possible way. A first class meanwhile important reissue for everyone involved in the listening of high quality Metal.