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Mantra Doom duo ZAUM to bring ‘ritual experience’ to Fredericton

For Kyle McDonald, one half of mantra doom duo ZAUM, the characterization of his band as “metal” can be a bit misrepresentative.

“In a way, I kind of hate that we have that association with ‘metal,’ because it’s not exactly what we do,” McDonald, bassist/vocalist, said. “We’re this kind of listener-friendly bridge between two worlds. We get this all the time, where people come up to us after the show and say, ‘I have no interest in metal, but I loved this.’”

Instead of pure metal, McDonald’s music combines some of that genre’s heavier elements with hypnotic, mesmerizing patterns designed to incite personal reflection—hence, “mantra doom.”

“People might associate ‘doom’ with something abrasive, and I don’t think that does us justice… We didn’t want it to be conventionally heavy, but meditatively and manta-heavy…There are some similarities with respects to tempos and some heavier moments, but I think at all points with ZAUM there’s a mysticism or aura that surrounds the music, so there’s always a light in the distance.

“It adds an overall slightly spiritual vibe, along with the doom. It’s like a living organism, in a strange way. Or at least that’s how I intend to make it sound.”

The band, which includes Christopher Lewis on drums/percussion, first formed in Moncton after evolving out of several other musical projects. The two-piece recorded a demo and sent it out to labels, receiving much interest, before ultimately settling with a Swedish label who shared their vision and loved the recordings as they were.

The European support has allowed the duo to tour extensively across the continent—to the chagrin of some of their Maritime fans, as it meant the group has had little opportunity to play back home.

Now, though, ZAUM is set to embark on an East Coast tour, which they’ve dubbed “The Ritual Experience,” throughout December, and to thank fans for being so patient, they’re planning something special for the shows.

Accompanying the duo for each Maritime performance will be Olive Bestvater, an experimental violinist; Ricky Frenette, a classically trained woodwind artisan; Jamie McEwan, an experimental projections artist; and Nawal Doucette, an award-winning contemporary Middle Eastern dance artist. The additional guests “add a whole new reality to the band,” said McDonald.

The guest performers also add an increased visual component to the show, which is slightly uncharacteristic for the band, who seek not to pull the audience’s attention towards the music, but to pull the audience’s attention towards themselves.

“Onstage we often use haze or fog machines to help you use lose yourself in your own mind…We’re trying to inspire and invoke thought. The intention isn’t to pull your attention from what you’re doing to the band and the music, but to create inspired thought where if, for example, you’re working on something, you can put on our record and have the music help you focus on what you’re doing in a different way and a different light.”

It’s an aim that extends through all aspects of the band’s musical offerings.

“With our lyrics, none of it is literal, we try to let you make your own interpretation of it. We create an atmosphere where you piece it all together on your own: whether it’s how you pronounce the band name, to the lyrics, to what you draw from it musically. I’m a big proponent of it all being entirely the perception of the listener.”

ZAUM will bring “The Ritual Experience” to the Maniac Mansion on Dec. 8, alongside special guests Hard Charger and Janowski.

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