AMN Reviews: John Zorn – The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons (2015, Tzadik)

This is the second release from John Zorn‘s organ-based metal trio Simulacrum. Featuring core members John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums, and Matt Hollenberg on guitar, the group is joined by Trevor Dunn on bass and Marc Ribot on guitar. With the expanded lineup, the overall feel of this album is more full and dense, at least in the textural sense, than the group’s debut.

Particularly, while the self-titled Simulacrum release was essentially very well-done technical metal with organ, this album leans more in something more of a hard rock direction. Zorn’s compositions still move at frenetic speed, shifting rapidly from theme to theme, but Ribot’s playing adds a bluesy element in contrast to Hollenberg’s more straight up speed riffing. Together, they combine for dual guitar leads, as well as prickly lines and discordance that would not be out of context on a King Crimson recording.

Ribot’s influence also seems to bring the group downtempo from time to time, focusing on atmospherics rather than an all-out sonic assault. It is in these moments that Medeski also shines, contributing thick chords and swirling themes. Dunn makes notable contributions, especially on Sorcerer, which moves in a thrash / speed metal direction. If anything, Grohowski’s role is downplayed, perhaps due to the drums being deemphasized in the mix. Nonetheless, he remains busy in the background.

The True Discoveries of Witches and Demons ends with two longer tracks, each exhibiting the aforementioned atmospherics in a controlled-improvisation setting. This is new ground for Simulacrum, and emphasizes the significance of Ribot’s contributions and how Zorn may have crafted these pieces for Ribot’s presence.

Related Reviews:

https://avantmusicnews.com/2015/03/21/amn-reviews-john-zorn-simulacrum-2015-tzadik/

https://avantmusicnews.com/2017/03/05/john-zorn-the-garden-of-earthly-delights-2017-tzadik/

 

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