Zuul - Out of time 4/5

Reviewed: 4-1-10


1. Out of time
2. Warriors
3. Executioner
4. Air raid
5. Warhammer
6. Backstreet crawler
7. Darkness on the ice
8. Ride ride
9. Return to Yagi

Okay, I'm not going to lie. I don't know anything about this band. A cursory Internet search didn't disclose any revelatory background information, except that they're from Illinois and they released a 7-inch single in 2008. The band name would appear to be some sort of homage to Ghostbusters. Wasn't Zuul the name of the demonic supernatural being that possessed Sigourney Weaver? I don't know. At any rate, Zuul are an honest-to-god, no-frills heavy metal band from the United States of America, and that's really all you need to know.

The fairly primitive cover artwork depicting a hooded executioner standing over his next victim amidst skulls, bones, an hourglass and a decaying castle calls to mind some of those early/mid-80s cover drawings that bands like Omen and Hallows Eve popularized. You know, low-budget and endearing without being lame. And that's actually a very good summation of the contents of 'Out of time'. Zuul serve up a tasty platter of NWOBHM-inspired songs that sound timeless. No one would have difficulty believing that these songs date back to 1982 or 1983, and the suitably fuzzy production job doesn't give away the secret either. But this stuff sounds NWOBHM not in the laid-back, commercial rock'n'roll sense of the genre, but in the punky, raw, uptempo, unpolished vibe of early Iron Maiden and maybe Blitzkrieg, Jaguar, Satan and bands of that ilk, with perhaps just a pinch of October 31.

What's funny about 'Out of time' is that the CD really sneaks up on the listener. The first few times through, my impressions were that it is a competent, enjoyable and unexceptional old-school metal release. But then some of these tunes started to get under my skin. Just listen to "Warhammer". As simple and unassuming as the track is, it's actually a monster of a song. Listen to this one a couple of times, and I guaran-damn-tee you'll catch yourself singing "Bang goes the hammer/Burn molten steel/Life taking shape/into something that's real" when you least expect it. Dig deeper, and you'll realize that Zuul have come up with an impressive haul of unpolished gems. "Air raid", "Darkness on the ice", "Warriors", "Return to Yagi", all are exceptional. And the hits just keep on coming. The intertwining of the classic riffage and guitar harmonies, and the perfectly authentic NWOBHM-styled vocals of Brett Batteau, melded with unerringly catchy and effective songwriting makes 'Out of time' a diamond in the rough that fans of the genre will treasure if they'll only give these songs a little time to work their magic.

Look, I know this "old metal" style is experiencing a resurgence in the heavy metal underground these days, and there are kids running around in zebra-striped trousers with bandannas tied around their necks trying to sound like Angel Witch or whatever. But Zuul do it in such an unpretentious and spot-on manner that suggests these 5 guys from Illinois "get it". They understand this music, and they've captured the sound, the spirit, the naivete, and the brash exuberance that made the New Wave of British Heavy Metal the coolest thing America imported from Britain since Guinness and shepherd's pie. So do yourself and check out 'Out of time' because Zuul deserve to be heard.




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