Venezuelan electronic dance music artist Zardonic may hide his larger-than-life stage presence behind an ominous, demonic mask – but his alter-ego Federico Ágreda has a very high profile in the business, thanks to his unique production skills and the ability to flip just about any genre into his own evil creation. While his original tunes have been remixed by prominent EDM artists and producers like Bare Noize, it's his unique way with the remix that got Zardonic involved in new versions of tracks by rock and pop icons like Nine Inch Nails and Beyonce, dubstep dignitaries Omar Santana & Evan Gamble, and even extreme metallers including Dark Funeral and Gorgoroth. Pick a genre, and Ágreda has probably put his own sinister stamp on it... if not, he will soon.
Zardonic's latest release Far Beyond Bass: The Vulgar Remixes is a tight overview of his skill spectrum, and yet another of many collaborations with other artists. The twelve tracks collected here revisit his successful EDM-metal-monolith Vulgar Display of Bass (which scored the #1 Drum & Bass spot on Beatport last year) subjected it to some intense reinterpretation. The original album was a collaborative effort to begin with, featuring big EDM names like Omar Santana & Evan Gamble Lewis, Vocians, Krusha, Mark Instinct, Reid Speed, Playma, Receptor, Robyn Chaos, Throttler, Cooh and Counterstrike... and this time even more players from around the globe get in the game.
The influence of extreme metal on Ágreda 's material grew out of numerous collaborations with metal bands, even many years prior to donning the Zardonic mask; his incorporation of metal riffs may have played a hand in Zardonic being selected for a South American tour with symphonic metal superstars Dimmu Borgir, and the titles of this and his previous album are homages to Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven, both major landmarks on the metal map. On Vulgar, Zardonic pinned the chunkiest of metal riffs onto simple but hyper-heavy EDM bass patterns; on Beyond, Ágreda and his collaborators go beneath the riffs to explore those rhythmic undercurrents.
Hardcore drum & bass artist Eye-D takes a more minimalist approach to the anthemic “Revolution,” retaining the bass pulse and its main rallying chant, but pulling back the caustic, ripping synths. “Bring Back the Glory” is remixed by South African group drum-steppers Counterstrike, with less emphasis on the original metal riffs and more on the thunderous sub-bass. “Real Steel,” as interpreted by ANiMAL-MUSiC & Raptus, is a chaotic storm of mid-range buzzes and vocal samples that busts out into a medium-strength drop session. German EDM duo Neonlight go for a more European vibe for “Kickass,” but still turn out some aggressive and frightening bass zaps. Next is Black Sun Empire's sweet D&B treatment of “Hypnotized,” which creates a gothic horror atmosphere with its ghostly synth melody and vocal loops, and New Zealand duo State of Mind bring an eerie urgency to “Survive” with a warm synth pulse and heavy manipulation of the intense melodic vocals.
One of the heaviest hitters on the album is “Dominate,” originally a collaboration between Zardonic, Omar Santana & Evan Gamble Lewis. Re-imagined as the “Angel Remix,” it kicks off the album's second half and is also making its world premiere right here... dig it!
Next up is Gancher & Ruin's ultra-evil take on “Destroy,” beginning with a dark symphonic intro and exploding into a high-tempo bass explosion. The insane “Cut Raw” follows, courtesy of C-Netik & Fragz, who take a basic atonal robot pulse and lay in a spastic, dizzying beat. Kaiju fans will dig “Mechagodzilla,” kicked up here by industrial unit HecticMau, paying homage to the King of the Monsters by riffing on the Godzilla theme as well as the Big G's trademark roar. “Deathmachine,” originally a Zardonic-only track, is blasted into oblivion here by hardcore techno artist Delta 9, who wraps it in a dark ambient noise environment that remains in play even through the frantic, murderous beat. The album closes with the dramatic “Sideshow Symphony,” as interpreted by Germany's ambient/IDM artist Hecq, with reverb-soaked piano and warm bath synth strings wrapped around a lower-key but still intense bass pattern.
While Far Beyond Bass is not quite as brutally aggressive as its predecessor, it's still a masterful EDM album that gets right to the heart of the original's meatiest rhythms. If you're new to the “bass metal” sound of which Zardonic is a pioneer, Vulgar Display of Bass is the ideal introduction, but this entry also proves his skill at spontaneous genre-hopping reinvention, making it a must-have for fans of EDM, drum & bass, and even industrial metal. Far Beyond Bass is slated to drop (pun intended) on Monday, and you can hear more samples of Zardonic's work on his Facebook page and Soundcloud sets... plus here's the official video for the original version of “Revolution.”