Demon Puppets And Plenty Of Make Up: CalatrilloZ – Psalms of Zahyin Review

Sooo, I’m gonna say some stuff about this album, and any review is of course a subjective expression, but I think this one deserves an extra mention that THIS IS JUST MY OPINION. I don’t say that because these guys are super popular and I want to insulate myself from super fans, but because I think some of you would probably REALLY LIKE this album, and I don’t want to take that away from you. Not that you were probably going to let me tell you what to like, but if this sounds like something you’d be into then have at it!

CalatrilloZ is an operatic rock/metal hybrid with each band member playing a character in a drama involving demon possessed puppets, time travel and a cover story as circus performers. It’s definitely more B-horror movie than The Wall, but who wants to listen to The Wall all the time? (If you want to listen to The Wall all the time please seek help and stop bothering your loved ones.) If you’re prepared to buy into and investigate all of that then you will enjoy this album much more than I did. If there’s a hole in your life for time traveling demon puppets (or something) then you are set!

If you aren’t currently left wanting for musical theater you might be a little disappointed. Lead single “I Am Alive” is the high point of the album. The largest portion of its DNA has been drained from the blood banks of classic rock, but it’s been contaminated with broken glass along the way, in a good way. Zahyin is justifiably proud of his vocal talents, but he effectively shares space with the guitars on this track and it injects some life and fun into the track. He even lets a little opera-minded SAOD into his delivery. The track manages to stomp and shred while still handily supporting what feels like the best composed vocal performance on the album.

Overall though, Psalms Of Zahyin suffers from a few issues that keep it from sitting nicely as an album. The visual element sounds like it’s missing. It’s not that you really want it, it’s that it feels like things don’t make sense without it. Swap out the industrial influences of Repo! The Genetic Opera for 90s alt-rock and nu metal and you have a good approximation of the sound on display, and it constantly begs for you to be watching what’s going on to help translate lyrics into story. I probably wouldn’t listen to Repo! as an album, and Psalms isn’t good enough that my mind is interested in inventing the imagery. Nor are the songs structured for easy understanding. A few more catchy choruses would nicely lower the threshold for entry to the album.

The songwriting is neither inviting and accessible nor challenging or rewarding. The drum work is pretty standard and the guitars are most often left chugging under Zahyin’s sweeping voice. And he has a good voice, but his style doesn’t lend itself to being particularly understandable, and with an album that promises a story it’s frustrating to be left with very few words to piece the story together from. With exciting musical moments few and far between and no real way to track the promised narrative it’s difficult to dredge up much enthusiasm for what’s happening.

Despite talking up musical freedom, the band is careful never to stray too far from a fairly standard rock/metal chug. Maximum room is given to Zahyin’s voice, but it’s never left on it’s own to carry any section for too long. There’s very little that’s quiet or delicate about the album, and it flattens out the bombastic whole in much the same way that Muse tends to do. There are certainly some peaks, but the fear of descending too deeply into the valleys makes them much less impactful.

The production is also a bit thick and tends to favor Zahyin’s voice a bit too much for my taste. Guitar clarity is too often sacrificed. What works so well on “I Am Alive” is dismissed for most of the other tracks except for album closer, “Z, The Psychopath.” The drums are also a bit thick and are robbed of any nimbleness as a result. Parts that would benefit from something besides a steady thud are left sounding leaden, contributing to the general feeling that these guys need to relax and let some space in.

I can’t help but feel like “I Am Alive” and “Z, The Psychopath” are the A and B sides of a single with 4 tracks of bombastic filler clinging on. If something were grabbing me and pulling me into the world CalatrilloZ wants to create I could get behind this a lot more, but most of it isn’t memorable, even if it is fun. There’s plenty to enjoy here, but the long form songwriting isn’t backed up by interesting enough musical ideas to reward the effort of seriously digging in. I’m sure some people are going to be happy to be along for the ride, but I’m not one of them.

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