Review: Zorbas Crisol - Criollo EP

I was recently contacted by one of the guitarists from Chilean band Zorbas Crisol, and I was extremely impressed by what I heard. Their debut EP, Criollo, is somewhat reminiscent of a mostly instrumental version of Mr. Bungle's debut album, but it doesn't feel the slightest bit derivative. The song structures are highly unpredictable but never random or directionless.

For example, the first song begins sounding very reminiscent of The Mars Volta - if you had told me that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez played guitar in the first half of this song, I wouldn't have been surprised, and the similarities are cemented by prominent saxophones, soloistic bass playing and some very cool odd time grooves. Much of it feels very off kilter, which adds to the excitement. Metal influences begin to creep in, and around the four minute mark, it turns into full-on thrash metal. Yelled vocals enter the picture, with politically-oriented lefitst lyrics delivered in Spanish at lightning speed, as if the band is attempting to get through the section as fast as they possibly can. In just 30 seconds, the thrash metal vocal section is over (and only one other prominent vocal passage appears on the entire EP - a brief sung section during the closing track). A Bungle-esque saxophone line takes over, followed by an eerie-sounding unison lead between sax and guitar. The song becomes more and more frenzied as it races towards the finish line, giving way to manic guitar shredding and noise.

The second song, "Martin usa bronceador," begins as a much more subdued latin ballad that soon gives way to some very cool melodic phrasing, delayed slap bass and guitar solos. This song manages to be every bit as unpredictable and exciting as the first song and becomes quite chaotic and noisy near the end. The third song is only a little over one minute long, but the funky bass groove, saxophone solos, and tritone-based riffs instantly bring Mr. Bungle's debut to mind. The remaining two tracks are equally as good, and the EP retains its high quality up until the very end.

I can't recommend Criollo enough. The production is very clear despite retaining a dirty edge and very live sound, the playing is very tight (but just loose enough to be very exciting), and the songwriting is excellent. I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on this band, and I can't wait to see what they do next!