Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.
The well of early proto-metal will never run dry, which bodes well for us here in this column. Let’s start the new year off by taking a look at the second album from UK-based Zior, a proto-stoner/psychedelic band who dabbled with prog tendencies (hi, flute—door’s over there) and occult leanings (wait, flute, come back—we’re listening). This record, originally a German-only release from either 1972 or 1973, depending on what dark corner of the internet you trust more, is a bit patchy but has moments of light in the darkness… or darkness in the light.
“Entrance of the Devil” starts off killer, with what is either a super creepy movie sample or just a bunch of weird shit the guys threw together, and it leads into the massive opening riff perfectly. I’m thinking biker proto-stoner doom/sludge, like Electric Wizard at their most B-movie ride-cult-ride ready, and the psycho mumbled vocals here only add to the WTF vibe. Killer opening song, riffs for miles, atmosphere to spare.
It leads right into “The Chicago Spine,” where the tempo picks up, we’re heading out to the highway, getting our motors running, and it’s four-on-the-floor early hard rock, some psych overtones to what is basically a “Born to Be Wild” ripoff, sure, but a fun one.
“Have You Heard the Wind Speak” gets a bit funky, a bit slinky, a bit trippy, definitely a bit stoned. Those spookin’-out vox are hilarious, but, hey, it was the era. Which is the best I can say for “Time Is the Reason” too, all bongos and feeling the love and I’m tuning out here.
But then there’s “She’ll Take You Down,” which, sure, is rooted in drowsy blues but is delivered with a Kirk Windstein-level vocal attack and a sludgey vibe musically, too. The album is redeemed here on this cool track.
Unfortunately, “Dudi Judi” then brings a honky-tonk blues shuffle to things, and I’m just tuning right out.
“Strange Kind of Magic” sorts things out, laying down a dirty Hotter than Hell Frehley riff while “Ride Me Baby” rocks hard and economic, at 2:20 not wasting much time, boogie licks all over the place, the band going actually quite fast on this one. Tons of energy; even the harmonica is raucous enough. Approved.
“Evolution” threatens to be sleepy blues again but instead is ragged enough to sound less like that and more like proto-NOLA stoner in the verse, even if the chorus cleans it up a bit for a more of a classic rock and rolly coulda-been anthem. I dig.
The title track trips pretty hard, with the spoken word and the sound effects and all. This is as occult-y and also as proggy as this record gets, and it’s kinda funny but not necessarily a great piece of art. Neither is “Cat’s Eyes,” which brings us back to the barroom boogie-woogie. Man, at this point I’m wishing half this album had been cut for a far more efficient proto-stoner sleazy biker rock album with slight fun occult leanings, because the bluesy and rock and rolly stuff kinda blows.
“Suspended Animation” begins the album’s close with a mellow, trippy vibe, all bass and echoing vocals, and it’s a smart way to begin the end, definitely sounding like one of those killer classic Sab meditations.
“Angel of the Highway” sounds like the name of a great Thin Lizzy song, but it’s not, it’s a great Zior song, one we should all be more familiar with, as the band ends this rather confounding album the same way they started it: with a rowdy biker-rock anthem that nods a bit too close to “Summertime Blues” for my liking, but I’ll ignore that and focus on the crashing drums, the great riffs, the hoary vocals. I’ll let the too-long runtime go (admittedly, they do flesh out the last couple minutes in pretty fun fashion) and give this one a thumbs up.
This record is too long at 46 minutes, especially because half of it kinda stinks or just doesn’t fit in. Zior feel like a band at a crossroads here, and it’s too bad they never were able to put out the red-hot classic they were so obviously capable of. But the songs here that rock are fantastic, the band cruising down the highway in all our minds while groups like Electric Wizard, Cathedral, even Church of Misery give a solemn nod in respect as they go their own way, well aware of those who got the concrete hot and ready for them, even if sonically they’re a world apart.
Zior’s Every Inch a Man – The Decibel breakdown:
Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No, but it would help with some of the blues stuff.
Heaviness factor: Pretty light for the most part, but with glimpses of proto-stoner.
Obscura Triviuma: Their debut featured art designed by Keith McMillan, who you know as the person behind the iconic art on Black Sabbath’s classic debut.
Other albums: A self-titled in 1971 and Spirit of the Gods in 2019.
Related bands: Iron Maiden (no, not that one), The Iron Maiden (still, nope), (The Original) Iron Maiden (oh, wow)
Alright, fine, if you must: I get the feeling these guys were no strangers to acid.