A meaningless word, awesome, but in the realm of heavy metal, it says it all. Take, for example, the first 10 minutes of Zoroaster’s fourth album, Matador. The psychedelic opener “D.N.R.” dirges along for 6:26 while you float in the lotus position on a magic carpet that reeks of incense and bongwater, and Fiore’s soothing Gilmourian roar intones, “Don’t tell me how to die.” This segues into the quick, chaotic rumble of “Ancient Ones,” where the do-not-resuscitate hero of the previous track shriek-wheezes about communing with spectral entities that populate his great reward. It’s a monolithic one-two punch; calling it “awesome” is reflex.
On top of that, Zoroaster is loud. Some have called them the loudest band in Atlanta, which—even with Mastodon in the running—is possible. Fiore laughs at this, like it’s the folly of his youth, which it was. In Zoroaster’s early days, Fiore and bassist Brent Anderson (currently on a rock & roll timeout, with band friend Travis Owen filling in) would take their full amp stacks to every club and roll the dials all the way up and play eyes-shut so to ignore the frantic protestations of the club’s sound guy. “In Tennessee,” says Fiore, “they stopped the show and actually ran us out of town.” The story earns that ubiquitous adjective of “awesome,” but a thinkin’ man’s metal band like Zoroaster eventually wised up. “After years of doin’ that, you blow all your equipment and get too lazy to [lug all the gear around].”
Now Zoroaster plays loudly, but with an ear on nuance. Through their discography, from their eponymous demo release in 2005 through 2007’s Dog Magic, 2009’s Voice of Saturn and now Matador, the band refines their mesmerizing grooves, adding more and more texture to their cacophonous ear candy. Now a song like “Ancient Ones,” where Fiore growl-shrieks lyrics that would give strokes to God-fearing folks, is a skull-crushing metal anthem that feels like a three-minute pop tune. Zoroaster’s frontguy attributes this to a desire to make the live shows nasty and the albums awesome.
“I know,” says Fiore, “that the songs will sound loud and energetic live. So when we go into the studio, it’s cool to explore different facets of the songs. It’s cool to have that separation … to be able to [make it] meatier on the record and then, when we play live, play it any way we want.”
That sort of thinking, and craftsmanship, is how Zoroaster keeps getting accolades and superlatives, like they’re “the next High on Fire” and why Matador may be their watershed album. When a band works that hard to create a cathartic, substantial listening experience, it earns them ears. Fiore’s modest, too—there’s no way, in his mind, Zoroaster is as good as stoner/doom metal priests High on Fire. He swears that on Internet message boards, “Just as many people are saying how bad we suck and that each record is worse.”
“We’re just doin’ what we wanna do,” he says, “and tryin’ to keep it interesting for ourselves. We don’t spend too much time thinking about [press]. But it’s definitely cool that people are sayin’ those things.”
However, Fiore does take exception to the idea Zoroaster will succeed High on Fire. It causes him to momentarily revert to metal fan, one perhaps seated at his own computer, poised to type a venomous objection. Surely High on Fire is far more wicked and awe-inspiring than his band. “[I’m inclined to say], ‘What are you, crazy?!’”
w/ Weedeater, Old Timer, MuckRaker
Burt’s Tiki Lounge
726 S. State
Saturday, March 5, 9 p.m.