Savage Masters


The images are terrifying: thick plumes of oil-blackened smoke pour from the hot flames of […]
May 2, 2023
Zozobra - Savage Masters album cover

The images are terrifying: thick plumes of oil-blackened smoke pour from the hot flames of an incinerated truck. Lights from emergency vehicles and the yellow-jackets of highway patrolmen and EMTs accentuate the dull grey of the New England sky.  It happens all too often. Someone going about their daily business has their life done in by two-tons of steel and a Jersey wall. Families are rendered fatherless and forever changed.  On that fateful day in 2018, multi-musician Caleb Scofield left this mortal coil, leaving his wife and young children behind and a legacy of heavy music, from his work in CAVE IN and OLD MAN GLOOM to his solo work with ZOZOBRA.  Released in 2013, "Savage Masters" is being reissued to honor Scofield and his contributions, as well as raise money for his family. It's a brutally energetic record, teaming with life and urgency, something made all the more poignant through his loss.

CAVE IN were very much at the forefront of the artistically progressive extreme metal movement of the '00s. Bands like them and PELICAN and ISIS redefined what it meant to be metal, stripping it of irony, and reducing it to its emotional core. Doom and sludge stretched its pock-marked legs and tightened the laces on their dry-rotted combat boots.  Around this time, Caleb Scofield took a deep, cigarette-fueled breath and exhaled the blackened, punk-infused rot of ZOZOBRA. It's the heavy music of the thinking man. Second song "Venom Hell" conjures up more "My War"-era BLACK FLAG than "Damaged." Album highlight "Deathless" is a brutal, no-nonsense foray into pummeling sludge. "Rattle his chains, blacken your eyes!" growls Scofield. "Murderous sounds bleed from your mouth melting faces off of skulls!" It's the sound of the pit, and the artless flipside of his work in CAVE IN, and I mean "artless" in the most positive way.  While CAVE IN may have been the wine served at an art opening in Soho, ZOZOBRA is the piss-warm Milwaukee's Best after a day of jacking cars and bloodying knuckles.  His bass rattles and pushes the cabinets to their physical edge.  Fellow CAVE IN brethren Adam McGrath and JR Conners fill in the spaces with down-tuned guitars and kick-heavy drums, respectfully.  Penultimate song "Chorus of Wars" showcases some psychedelic guitar work from McGrath, and some truly doomy riffing as the falls to its thematic demise.  The last song "Born In a Blaze," at 2:54, is the longest song on the album, and smartly ends this barely fifteen minute lesson in first class sludge.

"Savage Masters," in some ways, is a bit of hidden gem, buried under metric tons of solid, igneous rock, vestiges of an Earth that quickly cooled. It's hard to find fault with three guys who were clearly locked in, and recorded a half-dozen exemplar pieces of what it means to be heavy. It seems that Scofield wasn't meant to fade away: that to leave this planet in a fiery blaze, a legacy of growls, pummeling kick drums and a fat, rattling bass that makes your bowels move in urgency was more along the lines of what it meant to rock and roll in Scofield's world.  His talent being taken away at such a young age is a tragedy nonetheless. It would have been interesting to see what kind of sonic world he'd have been able to carve out of the rock around him.  There's not telling what kind of gems he would have unearthed.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"Savage Masters" Track-listing:

1. The Cruelest Cut
2. Venom Hell
3. Deathless
4. Black Holes
5. A Chorus of War
6. Born in a Blaze

Zozobra Lineup:

Caleb Scofield- Bass, vocals, guitar
Adam McGrath- Guitar, vocals
JR Conners- Drums

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