Zack Zalon’s latest project, Into the Great Divide, is a very different breed of metal from what commonly dominates airwaves these days. Nowhere to be found are any blast beats or chugging breakdowns. There are no violent or satanic lyrics–no vocals to speak of at all. No, instead Zalon offers us pure, majestic instrumental narrative. S/T is not so much an album as a tale of heroism written in music itself.
These are songs of adventure and mystery. According to Zalon:
Each track is actually a chapter following a narrative, and each reflects that part of the story. A narrator guides this journey. I felt like this was an opportunity to do something new and tell a tale inside of music differently than what had been done before. I wouldn’t compromise on the kind of music I enjoy; I’d just change the way we present it, so that it connects with people on a more fundamental level.
There are some words, mind you. Each of the 10 tracks are preceded by spoken-word intros granting some context to what stage of the adventure each song represents. The context is vague, though, and all the better for it. The narrator acts as a sort of Dungeon Master, however, YOU, the listener, are the hero of timeless lore questing through realms of imagination. The destination: anywhere of grandeur; the prize: dreams. This is the kind of music you put on repeat in the background while playing Magic: the Gathering with your friends, or binging Terry Pratchett novels all night.
Sonically, everything about this album works. There is certainly a noticeable Zeppelin and Rush influence (producer Rick Chycki having worked with Rush on numerous recordings), yet it never feels like anything close to imitation. Instead, Into the Great Divide crafts something very new. It is lodged somewhere on the outskirts of classic rock, progressive, and subgenres of theme-metal (viking, pirate, and so forth).
Though, as a whole, it is very much guitar-centric, it never shies away from letting other instruments take the spotlight when suitable. The very first notes you hear are that of a slow, sweet piano, and there seems to be keys and synths blended throughout. Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini lends his expert drumming to the mix as well, and I can think of no better person to fill the role.
There are some records which really get you going. Punk rock makes you slam on the dance floor. Hardcore drives you to break everything in your bedroom within reasonable proximity. Thrash enchants you to whip your hair until your ears bleed and eyes fly out. I love those kinds of albums. Whenever I need a rage boost, they always deliver. But, and this is a big BUT, one cannot live on rage alone. Sometimes, when the mood is right, I just want some music to, in the words of Dobie Gray, “free my soul” and make me “drift away.” And in this regard, Into the Great Divide delivers spectacularly!
Into the Great Divide, along with cool related merch, is available for digital and physical purchase here.
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