“Zazen” opens this album like an armed horde marching on the defenceless and unleashing merciless slaughter.
Just two minutes in and Adelaide’s Tzun Tzu are delivering death metal savagery with a brutal remorselessness, leaving none to doubt their intentions. Alternating lead guitars cut a swathe through the dense riffing and furious drumming, while the abysmally deep voice of a demon calls the charge. Following the two similar-sounding openers, the doomier instrumental track “Decay” seems oddly placed but ushers in some subtle melodies that become more apparent as the album progresses.
Taking their cues from the likes of Nile and Morbid Angel, Tzun Tzu’s assault is pitiless, but like those two bands their musical and lyrical inspirations go beyond typical death metal fare. As their name implies, Tzun Tzu explore Oriental philosophy – specifically, medieval Japanese – and add flavour to their unbridled onslaught with flourishes of traditional instrumentation like in “Shi” at the album’s mid-point that builds to a crescendo of lead guitar and demonic growling from a gentle beginning that sounds like it’s plucked on a shamisen or sanshin. The theme recurs in the closing track “Hara Kiri” with Don Taylor and Nick Seja’s guitars mimicking the tones of the Oriental instrumentation.
While the album has plenty of moments throughout, the true flowering of Tzun Tzu’s Nile-esque abilities comes in the album’s longer cuts, “Without Zen” and the gargantuan “Phases of the Godai Philosophy” that lurches slab-like and then crushes with speed and power through a succession of tempo and mood changes like a behemoth. This is death metal in its pure essence, bombastic, immense and infernally heavy. Tzun Tzu is a solid offering and further proof that Australian bands can more than just compete on the world stage.
4. Blood of the Fallen
6. The Assassin
7. Without Zen
8. Phases of the Godai Philosophy
9. Hara Kiri