BEST NEW BAND - 2004
Death metal is dead. Long live death! Because as the plague of Morbid Angel imitators yields to the sound of this proggy quartet grinding out spirit-of-'76 chords, there's no need to fear the reaper. Guitarist Erik Fratzke, moonlighting from his gig as Happy Apple's bassist, brings a jazzman's ear for improv to Zebulon Pike, rolling out more noodling than you'll find in the buffet line at the Spaghetti Warehouse. And Morgan Berkus's guitar bellows right along, with shrieking, angular harmonies that suggest they've got the ghost of Polka Tulk moaning from inside the sound hole. If these guitars could talk, they'd speak of dragons and wizards and other magical creatures who might harbor more than one umlaut in their names. But since the men behind the strings don't sing, they'll leave the storytelling to Steve Post's deep-fried basslines, which scorch the fuming doom-rock with a slight melancholy, and Erik Bolen's me-Tarzan drums, which punctuate each power chord with five bazillion exclamation points. When it all comes together, this brainy twist on early Ozzy sounds so epic it could quickly earn the respect of bat-biters around the world. You might think God himself was celebrating the Sabbath.