Release Date: June 22, 2015
Reviewed by: Randy Radic
Speaking of overcompensation, CalatrilloZ is an operatic, hard rock, metal band from London. The band is a quintet: Zahyin handles vocals, arrangements and composition. Mobius plays bass; Azriel is one of two axe-men, the other being Vargovar; drums are the purview of Jimmy Sticks. They bill themselves as “a circus troupe of wanderers.” And they take their faux personas to the point of no return, including fictional personal histories, outlandish costumes and Kiss-like make-up. In other words, CalatrilloZ is rock n’ roll cosplay.
The band’s first full-length album is called Psalms of Zahyin, and although no explanation of precisely what the title refers to is provided, it can only be assumed it is a reference to the Hebrew letter Zayin, which is the seventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In Modern Hebrew, Zayin is defined as either penis or fuck or fornication. Whether or not there’s some cryptic meaning to the title, no one but CalatrilloZ knows. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘songs by some dude who calls himself Zahyin.’ Whatever his assumed name means, Zahyin has a strong voice, but not a whole lot of range. He sounds a little like Geddy Lee, but not nearly as distinctive.
The only way to describe the songs on Psalms of Zahyin is melodramatic opera. Layered guitars, keyboards and drums, along with machine-gun like phrasing proliferate all six tunes. There are a lot of breaks, where the guitars fall away, followed by Zahyin’s wailing voice, then the guitars swell again and the break-neck cadence resumes. It’s all very reminiscent of Freddy Mercury and Queen, only not as good. CalatrilloZ seems to be trying to imitate “Bohemian Rhapsody” in 4/4 time. They almost pull it off, but not quite. Although they deserve kudos for a valiant attempt.
The first track on the album is “Origins,” which sets the stage for all the other songs: heavily layered guitars and operatic voices. Some of the harmonizing is well-done; more would be better, except most of the songs appear to be vehicles designed to show-off Zahyin’s vocals. “Lords of Misery” is the second track. Of all the songs on the album, this one approaches “Bohemian Rhapsody” most closely. It begins with an opaque curtain of guitars, and then slides into a tinkling piano that has potential, but is eschewed for a veritable tornado of guitars. Next up is “I Am Alive.” During the first stanza, Zahyin does a credible imitation of Geddy Lee, but then relapses into his usual wailing.
“Long Winding Road” is perhaps the poorest song on the album. The lyrics are dismal to the point of being inane. And the guitars just scream for the sake of screaming. On the fifth track, entitled “A Glimpse at a Fool’s Destiny,” the drums are extended, especially the snare, allowing Jimmy Sticks to demonstrate his chops. Listeners have to admit that Jimmy Sticks thrashes with the best of active rock n’ roll drummers. Lyrically, the song falls flat because Zahyin’s voice takes on a sing-songy intonation, like a child’s nursery rhyme.
The last song on the album is called “Z, the Psychopath.” It is full-fledged opera, as if someone decided Wagner should be performed by a thrash band that aspires to mimic Queen. Racing guitars and keening voices don’t necessarily make a rock opera. CalatrilloZ needs to take a hint from The Who’s Quadrophrenia. Songs need melodies to work. CalatrilloZ has the thematic portion down pat.
All in all, Psalms of Zahyin is an ambitious undertaking. CalatrilloZ should be commended for bringing cosplay to rock n’ roll, especially the concept of fictional background narratives. And the operatic element is a nice touch, if it’s accompanied by strong vocals instead of shrieking guitars. The band has the requisite talent; they just need to put the puzzle together.