I’ll be honest, Dr. Zilog wasn’t a name I was familiar with. In all my years in the chipscene, the Doctor’s work hasn’t once crossed my path, and if it had, I just hadn’t really paid any mind to it. Regardless, while browsing through my Instagram feed, I noticed the particularly sick album art for his most recent release, ‘Unknown Command’, and was immediately intrigued. As I realized what I’d been missing out on, regret flowed through my veins like a river of quicksilver. The sheer intensity and virtuosity of this artist dazzled me beyond belief from the very first moment I began to listen to ‘Unknown Command’. How so? Why don’t we delve into the depths of this chipmetal suite and find out?
The first track we’ll be taking a look at is ‘Tweak A Bit’, the second track off of the album. This song opens modestly with a simple, yet memorable triangle bassline. Almost soothing in nature, ‘Tweak A Bit’ proceeds to…tweak, a bit. A staccato square voice is introduced prior to the crashing of cymbals, and Dr. Zilog’s guitar shredding, which quickly cements him among the likes of Danimal Cannon, and influences such as Mr. Bungle and Frank Zappa can be heard in his technique. The solo at the 1:48 mark is a perfect example of his sheer talent on the axe; utilizing a combination of hammer-ons, pull-offs, sweep picking, and tremolo (rapid picking), he creates a phenomenal sound. Combined with a heavily distorted voicing for the guitar, Dr. Zilog achieves a mysterious and astronomically impressive sonic atmosphere. The song ends with a comedic dialogue between a man and a woman that some of you may recognize from around the interwebs…
Next up, we have the album’s third song and title track, ‘Unknown Command’. The track’s hook is heavily reminiscent of 80’s power metal or hair metal groups, and as a result is fairly catchy without being overly complex. Dr. Zilog’s shredding takes on a more rhythmic role in this song, while square voices are brought to the front of the listener’s attention prior to the halfway point. At this point, an extended guitar solo begins, making excellent use of the lower end of the aural spectrum before transitioning smoothly into a slightly higher pitched tone, then into a variant on the hook and a fade out. A quote from the rather infamous 1989 film ‘The Wizard’ can be noted at the end of this track, which is a bit of a teaser for the following track, ‘Depowergloved‘.
Dr. Zilog’s work on ‘Unknown Command’ isn’t limited strictly to chipmetal or metal-influenced music; in a few tracks, a particularly experimental, jazzlike and avant-garde vibe can be observed. ‘Lachrymose Augury’ is by and far one of the more abrasive tracks on this album, but due to its very deliberate structure that’s by no means a bad thing. Strictly written with guitar and vocal/sound samplings, numerous different riffs from the same instrument begin to layer over one another before fading into an odd, almost croaking sound. This song, to me, calls to mind some of the earlier work of Blotted Science, particularly on their debut album ‘The Machinations of Dementia‘. I visualize this track as a more melodic version of this album’s heavily experimental ninth track, ‘Vegetation‘.
The last track I’ll be covering in this review is Dr. Zilog’s tenth track on the album, ‘Carnival of Souls’. A return to his signature melodic, power metal roots combined with the technical prowess of a progressive musician is this song’s selling point, in addition to layered guitar solos and duels between shredding and square tones. This track features a lot of overlap between the two voices in the same pitch, which makes for some very interesting sounding music. A chromatic build-up around the 1:08 mark is a particularly impressive highlight in my opinion, and one of the more difficult techniques to integrate within music is executed nearly perfectly by Dr. Zilog. He flawlessly transitions from the technically progressive and impressive to catchy and memorable while still maintaining a certain sense of awe that can only be achieved through this type of music.
A limited cassette edition of this album can be purchased for $12 on Dr. Zilog’s Bandcamp page, but for those who aren’t particularly interested in having a dated physical copy, the digital version can be purchased for only $8. This album has a certain niche appeal to it; experimental chiptune death metal/progressive chipmetal isn’t exactly a genre you hear about every day, and artists in this vein are quite few and far between. If you’re looking for a different avenue of chipmusic, however, be sure to give this album a shot. Don’t make the same mistake that I did and let Dr. Zilog slip off to the wayside; I truly do wish I’d discovered this artist sooner.