This review (in its unadulterated form) was originally published in December of 2018 but, as this Friday sees the re-release of an expanded version under Bonita Steel Records and Diabolic Might Records, we thought it would be appropriate to break out this ol' writeup. The following is an edited and updated version. - Ed.
Well, this is refreshing. Typically, when promo proclaims that a band represents a "bold new take" on a traditional, well-trod style, you can expect the same: yet another forgettable "revitalization" of a sound and aesthetic that has been done to death, reanimated, and then slaughtered by copycats once more. In the case of Tzimani, the status quo is effectively put in its place. Despite sparking synapses associated with a variety of high-octane hard rock and metal birthed in the days of yore, this self titled debut EP genuinely feels fresh-faced. Pull on your leather, put the pedal to the metal, and smell the gasoline: Tzimani begins with menacing distortion, a rumbling engine of Mad Max-ian proportion. This EP, previously reviewed by yours truly here, had been bolstered for a vinyl release by a new track, a couple o' covers, and some demos.
Modern trad metal works best when A. the songwriting feels like it has been dredged from the past, and B. the musicianship sounds like the result of decades worth of practice. Here, the brotherly duo--frontman Eddie Vazquez and drummer Sebastian Vazquez--are certainly beyond their years in terms of skill. The instrumentality is remarkably tight for such untested newcomers, and the writing reflects an unprecedented maturity. These seem like tracks resulting from years of failure and eventual triumph. Take, for example, We Are the Ones, a blazing number that begs for repeat listens. It’s catchy as hell, with appropriately corny lyrics and a lot of gleeful rock ‘n’ roll presence. This is all due to a predictable structure, but Tzimani aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, so much as play tunes that would have undoubtedly filled stadiums--had they the good fortune to be released 30 years earlier. Drums are tight and precise, the bass is audible enough to leave a sizable impact, and the vocals are surprisingly flexible. Eddie has a decent range, and he isn’t afraid to throw some vaguely Hagar-influenced inflection into the triumphant refrains.
While Tzimani is impressive on all counts, the nail in the coffin of this EP’s success is the brilliant display of axemanship. Face-melting solos, finger-blistering arpeggios, and a Skull Fist’d shred’s-not-dead approach to riffage is worth the price of admission alone. While never flying off the handle or stooping to mere wankery, a vibrant enthusiasm for flashy displays of technique is evident in Eddie’s highly skilled fretwork. The solos absolutely rip--'nuff said. His ability to craft galloping NWOBHM tinged riffs and licks with a distinct sneering competency a la Motley Crue, and the earworm sensibilities of the aforementioned Skull Fist--or perhaps Def Leppard--is truly something to behold. There's definitely a little Maiden in there as well, which only adds to the splendor.
Originality is always going to come into question, and while this all feels necessarily familiar, it doesn’t feel, well, done. The Crue Connection, for example, is most apparent in closer Get Me Out Of Here, which recalls Kickstart My Heart's central theme, yet comfortably reinforces Tzimani’s (already established) trademark: balls-to-the-wall momentum. This track proves that these guys aren't here to let off the gas and coast in the strength of a couple tracks, allowing listeners to flounder in the filler and fluff so often associated with this brand of hard rock. To be frank, there isn't a track here that would seem out of place as a high-octane radio single.
In regards to the new tracks--neither Dio's "Night People" nor W.A.S.P's "Doctor Rockter" are songs that I seek out from their respective creators, much less covers. That said, they fit the high-octane bill, and Tzimani deliver faithful homages in both, with the extensive solo in the latter being particularly well delivered. The demo tracks, like always, are a hoot to listen to--if only to compare and contrast with the final versions. I like a little rough 'n' raw energy, and if you're in the mood to experience a little progression, I recommend you listen in reverse order. Lastly, Carry On, which did not appear on the version of the EP, is a fun little bonus, featuring a top-tier vocal performance and a bouncy albeit understated riff. In the scope of Tzimani, it feels a little filler-ish, but that by no means should indicate that it's a bad track.
It sounds cliche, but the greatest weakness of this EP is just that--even with the added content, it’s only an EP. When Tzimani drop an album proper, they are undoubtedly going to become recognized as a force to reckon with in the face of revitalized American metal. This monster found an eternal resting place in my top 5 EP’s of 2018 and thus (still!) comes highly recommended.
Tzimani - Self Titled will be released digitally on March 27th from Bonita Steel Records, and on vinyl in July from Diabolic Might Records.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.