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Zess (Italy) - 2004 - "Et in Arcadia Ego"
(49 min, Black Widow)

TRACK LIST:                             
1.  Intro 1:44
2.  A Forest Mass 5:44
3.  Black Arcadia 4:20
4.  Revenants of War 5:23
5.  In Mithra's Den 5:17
6.  Bodysnatchers 7:33
7.  Stramonium Experience 6:43
8.  The Shameless 5:03
9.  Requiem for a Human Beast 8:00

All tracks: by Mercy or Mercy & Zess.
Produced & engineered by Zess & M. Marchese.


Mercy La Morgue - vocals; synthesizer
Dr. Rosenkranz - drums; synthesizer
Dr. Freudstein - bass
Dr. Polidori - guitar
Lord Ruthven - guitar

Prolusion. ZESS is regarded as one of the brightest representatives of the Italian school of Doom Metal. Their only album, "Et in Arcadia Ego" was recorded in the beginning of 1988, but wasn't released until now. The band's vocalist and principal songwriter, appeared under the pseudonym of Mercy, later joined the more well-known and successful Italian outfit Malombra.

Analysis. The 50-minute "Et in Arcadia Ego" consists of nine tracks and is an excellent album in its category, though I believe its follow-up would've been better if Zess were still in the ranks after recording this material and would have continued their creation. The opening number is titled simply: Intro and sounds very promising. The only instrumental on the album, this is a dark symphonic piece and is remarkable in spite of its brevity. However, the two songs that follow it: A Forest Mass and Black Arcadia are like tributes to early Black Sabbath. The influences are obvious in the vocals and in the music, evoking quite vivid associations with "Master of Reality" and "Vol. 4". As representatives of classic (i.e. proto-progressive, moderately slow in tempo, and with clear vocals) Doom / Cathedral Metal, these are very good songs. Nevertheless, almost all of the subsequent ones turned out to be much better. After Black Arcadia Zess stepped over the framework of doom-y classicism, with your permission, and the change of the line was so unexpected that I hardly believed my ears. The music becomes much more original and progressive, with essential changes in theme and tempo, effectively contrasting transitions from high-speed to slow arrangements and numerous atypical, both rapid and melodic, guitar solos. The band really shines with mastery when playing a fusion of Doom- and Techno Metal on Revenants of War, In Mithra's Den and Stramonium Experience and a completely progressive Cathedral Metal with distinct symphonic elements on Requiem for a Human Beast and Bodysnatchers. The latter song features the gorgeous organ prelude and is my absolute favorite. However, there is The Shameless (one:-) that wormed its way among these, on which Zess returned to the familiar sound. In short, that song should have been placed somewhere before the fourth track, and not on the eighth position. The lyrics are in English, but aren't available in the CD booklet. As far as I could understand from them, Zess had a specific worldview, which, however, was linked with Christian spiritual values. This sympathetic detail didn't become a revelation to me, as I've heard a lot of Christian bands playing one or another kind of Dark Metal, in a generalized context. After >Tourniquet, Zess will probably be the second one favorite of mine among those.

Conclusion. I believe I am quite familiar with the contemporary scene of Metal. At least, I can assert that this genre-related production of Black Widow Records (which is basically a Prog label, though) is stronger than most of that of any of the fundamentally 'metallic' labels that I have ever collaborated with: Metal Blade, DVS, Brennus, CD-Maximum, to name a few. As to Zess's "Et in Arcadia Ego", I'll put the final touches to the picture by naming a few famous bands. If Candlemass, Trouble, Cathedral, and especially early Mercyful Fate (I imply only music as such) fit your musical taste, you know how this sentence would have sounded if I were about to finish it properly. Thank you for your attention.

VM: November 19, 2004

Related Links:

Black Widow Records
Wicked Minds


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