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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Vasilisk - Tribal Zone [Steinklang Industries - 2012]

Taking cue from some of the works authored by controversial Palestinian writer Edward Said, there’s an interesting study to be made on the use of orientalist elements in modern industrial music. Along with the late linguist, one could argue that, however well-meaning and respectful they might be, most of the bands working within the constraints of what is an essentially European phenomenon will always by definition perpetuate a purely Occidental, and as such largely biased, view of the Eastern world. It is therefore with no small interest, I wager, that the Columbia University professor would have given ‘Tribal Zone’, Vasilisk’s first long-play in more than a decade, an authorised listen.

Born out of the ashes of Japan’s industrial unit White Hospital in the mid-eighties and revolving around mainman Tomosada Kuwahara (percussions, synth, voices, et al.), Yukio Nagoshi (guitars, percussions) and Chiaki Kuwahara (percussions), the band released a bunch of well-received (and now much sought after) records combining mostly electronic music with various African and Asian percussive instruments before slowly disintegrating in the early nineties, shelving two albums in the process over general dissatisfaction with the new sound and direction. Tomo and Yukio finally resurrected Vasilisk a couple of years ago and found a new home on Austria’s Steinklang Industries, first sharing duties with fellow compatriots Dissecting Table on a split release back in 2011 and here with a genuine full-length, their first since 1998’s ‘Sixth Darshan’ trance parenthesis.

Some albums reveal their qualities fairly early into the listening process. ‘Tribal Zone’ is one of those. As soon as the first Tibetan Buddhist chants hit the speakers, one realises the music has lost none of its meditative appeal and power of evocation. Veritable declaration of intent, opening track ‘Pagan Ritual’ almost single-handedly re-writes the rulebook of what tribal industrial music can sound like when devoid of clichés and performed with a clear vision. It’s a vision which none of the six additional tracks which compose the album ever depart from as each in turn, in their own inimitable fashion, they open a new window into the eerie realms of Eastern mysticism, combining Yukio’s trance-inducing guitar licks (‘Sacrifice’, ‘Silent War’) with Tomo’s sense of rhythmic genius (‘Riot in Lhasa’) over an carefully crafted tapestry of ancestral voices, African percussions and Tibetan flutes. Those are songs which reach for the core of what makes this music so damn addictive. Over the course of a couple of minutes, each one of them represents a journey into another, more spiritual dimension, the soundtrack to a mental voyage which takes the listener to places both dark and mysterious and hits an emotional chord with almost every single note.

There are people who – understandably, it could be argued – regard band reformations with the proverbial pinch of salt. When they produce such astounding results, though, one is forced to drop the cynicism and admit that some of them at least were for the greater good of music, as is undeniably the case here. Truly, Vasilisk could not have dreamed of a better return to the fold than this 46-minute gem of an album which easily competes with the best ritual ambient music out there. The fact that the good folks at Steinklang took it upon themselves to also release ‘Tribal Zone’ on vinyl (a meagre 100 copies, truth be told) merely constitutes the icing on the cake. So find yourself a comfy place, burn a couple of incense sticks, pour yourself a cup a buttered tea and do yourself a favour: spin at maximum volume and simply enjoy!

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

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