5 out of 5
Label: Wallace Records
Produced by: Black Engine
Fittingly violent as per the group / album name, Black Engine is Zu joined by experimentalist Eraldo Bernocchi, here on guitar. The combination encourages one of the loudest iterations of the band, with the free-jazz intensity of their Mats Gustafsson collab, and the post-rock stomp of their early works, given a punishing low-end heavy mix by Bernocchi and recorder Matteo “Speinzeit” Spinazze. Freakouts aplenty make moments of the album very Luttenbacher-esque, such as Fishtank Midget Surfer’s fast/slow/fast percussive backing, and the outright madness of closer Ignite, Isolate; but the Zu flavoring here is the control: tracks are always moving forward, though with an approach that favors balance, not afraid to strip down to clipped guitar and a beat if it allows the next moment to hit with greater intensity. This can be heard even from a top-down view: the album gives us a settled, meaty groove right at the midpoint: A Wolf Day is all steady beat and bass, before followup track Cut It, Pack It, Ship It riffs back into an almost post-hardcore mess of noise, punctuated by Luca Mai’s horns and electronic squiggles.
This kind of stuff favors fans of Zu’s louder works, but it’s one of the most rewarding of that breed, experimental within the borders of remaining loud and brash, focused on 3-4 minute blasts of gutsy showmanship that’s also mindful of delivering solid riffs and rock-out moments amidst the bluster. Giving the combination its own band name seems fitting, as the group very much moves as a unit, not refiguring Zu to work with a different contributor’s style, rather arriving at an “enhanced” version of the group in which Bernocchi’s guitar riffing is a counterpoint to the churning bass, drums, and horns, leading and following in balance with the rest of his bandmates.