We can go back and forth for days on the question of “But is it metal?” and not reach anything approaching a consensus, but Brooklyn duo Psalm Zero force that debate to another level: It’s probably not metal, but what the fuck is it? Psalm Zero arrive with unimpeachable metal credentials: Their debut album, The Drain, will be released on the venerable Canadian indie Profound Lore (Agalloch, Krallice), and one of the duo’s two members is Andrew Hock, frontman for the excellent black metal unit Castevet. But Psalm Zero teams Hock with experimental musician Charlie Looker (Seaven Teares, ex-Extra Life), and while their music is born of metallic influences, most of those influences exist on the genre’s margins — I can hear some early Godflesh in here, Voivod’s Nothingface, King’s freakin’ X, Sunny Day Real Estate, even — and are combined to create something that abandons the map altogether. Throughout the album, Hock and Looker trade vocals; Hock sings in a gruff, death-y bark, while Looker has a smooth proggy tone. Hock’s harsh rasps, though, are entirely absent on “In The Dead,” arguably the album’s best song. Looker delivers a mournful, melodic vocal over spindly, serrated guitars and billowing synths, all producing huge pop hooks that are just slightly incongruous enough to keep the whole thing from feeling like an actual pop track. Or, for that matter, an actual metal track. So what the fuck is it? Just listen.
The Drain is out 3/4 via Profound Lore.