Once dubbed the “Metallica of Belgium,” Channel Zero has been crowned the most successful musical act to emanate from that country. Despite their raging popularity in the Benelux region, the band was dismantled in 1997. In 2010, Channel Zero came together again with a series of sold-out hometown shows in Brussels, recording a live record that same year at one of said shows titled “Live at the Ancienne Belgique” and moving onward to a new studio album in 2011 called “Feed ‘em with a Brick.”
The band’s founding drummer, Phil Baheux, passed away in 2013, dealing a setback to their comeback momentum. They’ve since decided to carry on, finishing the music intended for the new “Kill All Kings” record with drummer Roy Mayorga, formerly of Soulfly. Now, armed with a new distribution deal via U.S. indie metal powerhouse Metal Blade Records, Channel Zero is primed to hammer heads well into the foreseeable future.
“Kill All Kings” is a masterful modern thrash album. Whereas on past releases the band has offered material more in the vein of Flotsam and Jetsam-tinged, tempo-chopped aggression, here the vibe is straight-wired groove with a dash of moody melodic ambience added. Tracks like “Burn the Nation” fit perfectly with the contemporary Rob Dukes-led Exodus in their snarling detuned thrash relentlessness – the call and response of “burn” begs for an imprudent act of defiance.
Similarly, the density of “Digital Warfare” allows for little light to permeate the maniacal drum fill offered by Mayorga, along with the skin-grating riffage of guitarist Mikey Doling. (The band’s lone axeman since the 2010 reformation, Doling was also once a member of Soulfly.) Cuts like “Crimson Collider” excel in detailed metal production, with several levels of musical shading happening simultaneously underneath the surface; vocalist Franky De Smet-Van Damme questions the idea of technology run amok (“Drifting in existence of a higher intelligence”).
One of the album’s finer moments comes with the emotional electronica/choral intro to “Brother’s Keeper,” a ballad that speaks of mental torment through regretful lyrics (“These pills don’t work anymore / They are reminders of my youth suffering”), the sense of remorse building to an almost post-hardcore rage mid-song before quieting down again.
The definitive statement for the Mark II-era Channel Zero, “Kill All Kings” sets a pace for others to follow with its genre-tearing precision and livewire nerve.
Channel Zero ‘Kill All Kings’ Rating: W W W W