Album Review: Channel Zero - "Kill All Kings"

When I say "channel zero", what comes to mind? Is it the Public Enemy song "She Watch Channel Zero"? Or maybe you think of a half-hour sitcom/sketch hybrid about a post-apocalyptic colony that broadcasts a pirate television station in the wastelands near what used to be Glendale. While both are good, and correct, answers the answer I was looking for is "Belgian thrash metal band who just released their latest album "Kill All Kings" on Metal Blade Records". Better luck next time.

Lately I've noticed that there seems to be an awful lot of bands who had some success in the 90s, broke up or went on hiatus in the first decade of the 2000s, who are getting back together and releasing new material today. Channel Zero is the next group on the list.

One of the more interesting aspects of these recently reunited groups, Channel Zero included, is the mix of old and new they bring with them. But that makes sense since the band members didn't stop playing, they just stopped playing together.

Throughout their latest release "Kill All Kings", Channel Zero hearkens back to a sound that is familiar and was popular in the 90s. Refreshingly, it also includes some parts that demonstrate the members were paying attention to the evolution of metal through the decade and a half since they put the band on hold and they combine the two to great effect.

Channel Zero's latest line up includes original members Franky De Smet-Van Damme (Franky DSVD) on vocals and Tino De Martino on bass as well as former Soulfly guitarist Mikey Doling and drummer Roy Mayorga. Original drummer Phil Beheux passed away in 2013.

"Kill All Kings" is Belgian thrash and then some. Time has not diminished the intensity of the group and Doling leads the charge with some mighty, down-tuned riffing throughout.

The record slams through the first seven tracks, culminating with the show-stopping title track "Kill All Kings". At that point the album slows for a moment with the mellower "Brothers Keeper". This is the song that, back in the day, would have seen the audience put their lighters in the air. Now I guess folks put their cell phones up or use the KISS lighter app or some other such nonsense.

Regardless, "Brothers Keeper" is the song that breaks up the thrashing, just for a moment, and creates a juxtaposition for the super heavy "Army of Bugs".

A while back I had a discussion with my pal Drew as to whether or not metal bands intentionally put a slower song in the middle of their album in order to give the listener an adrenaline break and/or make the track that follows seem that much heavier. I believe that yes, they do it intentionally.

In this case, it works particularly well. If "Army of Bugs" and "Mind Over Mechanics" don't get your boogie shaking then nothing will. And this is where Franky DSVD really starts to tap into his powerful vocals.

For my money, the best track on the album is "Duisternis" (I think it means "darkness"), partially sung in Franky's native tongue (remember, he's from Belgium). It's brutal and, in this reviewer's opinion, the most attractive thrash song of the bunch.

Channel Zero does a nice job of combining a classic thrash sound, the groove metal sound that Soulfly made popular and choruses that border on mainstream metal. "Kill All Kings" is energetic, groovy and technical. Whatever the reason for their original split, I, for one, am glad Channel Zero decided to give it another go. This album is proof positive that intense metal is not reliant on angst filled youth to stay relevant. Plus, this record would make a terrific soundtrack for a post-apocalyptic television station.

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