Album Review: zhOra – Mortals (Hostile Media)

From the vestibule of County Tipperary, Irish four piece zhOra have been slowly but steadily forging a niche of their own with a stylistic approach to sludge and progressive metal close to near a decade. On March 27th 2020, the band will release their latest opus, Mortals.

Drummer Tom Woodlock elaborates:

I think the main theme and inspiration behind Mortals is frustration. It was a bit of a reaction to the last album we released, as well as, a lot less morose and ponderous. I found that after spending so much time writing this long concept album, I didn’t really feel like I’d properly achieved the idea in my head. The ambition was there but our songwriting wasn’t up to scratch, which is a tough thought to deal with, especially when you’re trying to promote the record and you’re not satisfied with your best effort. I found that trying to write this big stuffy missive about language and philosophy just made me depressed and pissed off in general. Sometimes being an armchair philosopher just leaves you stuck to the fucking couch. Coupled with our original bass player having to leave to deal with a brain tumour before we could even release it, left all of us in a bad headspace. The band at this point was pretty fractured with a good degree of infighting – not a good space to be trying to ponder the ‘secret machinations of the mortal coil’. Any music that was going to come out of it would be a lot less ethereal and much more to the point. For example: the music for the track ‘Hellfire’ was written in 90 minutes.

The songs all share the connection of being frustrated at something that’s out of your control, or controlling you or someone you care about. Sometimes there’s not much more you can do, than just scream into the wind about it. Across this record, it’s mainly severe mental issues, substance abuse, clerical abuse, death in general, just stuff that you can’t change. But you can rage about these things, and that is healthy and correct to do, which is the main theme for Mortals – ‘Life sucks, get it off your chest’.

Strong words but zhOra back it all up with a six-track release that has all the chaotic nature of a band who walked into a studio, picked up their instruments, went crazy and left after one take.

Coke Vulture is all about its very thick guitar groove, weighing the track down to the point of suffocation. The frantic and abusive sound of a band clearly comfortable with a deadlier style of sludge. Following that Hellfire has a serious punky snark about it but mixed with an absolutely bone-crushing level of heaviness. Before The Hollow drags the swamp to find the filthiest of filth, then delivers it in a way that will have you lapping up every sludgy mouthful.

The second half of the album doesn’t make any abrupt changes to the the winning formula but sees zhOra once again providing a thrilling amount of thickness. The guitars and drums joining forces to out-heavy a vocal performance that can be rightfully called sickening.

How do you follow that beast? By leaning into their progressive side a bit more while still staying as savagely heavy as humanly possible. That’s exactly what zhOra do on Demotivator and wrap up the Mortals experience with Spectral Embrace. A finale of speed, a finale of anger, a finale of passion and a finale worthy of this album of the year contender.

zhOra – Mortals Full Track Listing:

1. Coke Vulture
2. Hellfire
3. The Hollow
4. Wall Of Time
5. Demotivator
6. Spectral Embrace


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zhOra - Mortals (Hostile Media)
  • The Final Score - 9.5/10
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