Though it came out midway through 2012 the self-titled album from sonic manipulators Zebras quite simply is an album you need to know about and hear. If like us you are just becoming aware of the band then see this as the key to infernal rapture and if you already know the magnificence of the release than sit there nodding knowingly as we drool all over this review of one of the mightiest releases of last year.
Formed in 2007, the band from Madison consists of guitarist and vocalist Vincent Presley and synth player Lacey Smith as well as across its years featuring a mix of drummers. Musically the band is wonderfully indescribable merging the insidious aspects of punk, noise rock, post punk, doom, and industrial to name a few spices to their unique sonic infestation. Following on from their EP Parasitic Clones Under The Strong Arm Of The Robotic Machine, the new album is a two sided beast which consists of tracks recorded in 2011 on first side Impending Doom, with drummer Shane Hochstetler of Milwaukee band Call Me Lighting, and on the The Fate of a World Plagued By Soulless Shits side, tracks recorded in 2009 with Shawn Pierce on drums. The release is a breath taking collection of songs which shows the move in sound across the two years covered by the band and the giver of the richest rewards and pleasure.
The first quintet of tracks are those recorded in 2011 and are opened by the towering presence of The Dying Sea. Opening with thunderous beats and caustic guitar rubs the song is a brooding doomy weight loaded with the insidious tones of Presley. It is a venomous bruising encounter with a sludge thick energy which sucks the wind from the lungs and hope from the senses before later flailing the carcass with serpentine sonic lashings.
The stunning start is soon left in the wake of Mighty Bayonet, a snarling ravenous rampage of bulbous rhythms, harsh corrosive electronics, and psyche twisting riffs and guitar abrasion. It is a sprawling acidic aural licking with the vocals, a perpetual psychotic mix of Jello Biafra and Russell Toomey of Innercity Pirates/My Red Cell, a malevolent siren within the brief incessant furnace of intensity. In contrast the following Queeny Gloom Doom is a doom provoked arctic wrap of post punk discord bringing elements of Joy Division and Xmal Deutschland into the antagonistic dance of Alien Sex Fiend or Sex Gang Children. As compelling as it is exhausting the song is a darkly shadowed crawl over the senses and emotions with a deviant sexual whisper to its intimidating breath.
A Turd By Any Other Name and Black Cancer close off the first part of the release, both ingenious brawls of sonic intrusion and imaginative violence. The first is a tower of again greedy energy which rages like a hungry fire across the ear whilst the keys of Smith shoot flares of sonic irreverence and flesh spearing melodic weaponry out from within the engrossing wall of heavy aural malice. The other is a punk soaked slice of infection, a ferocious distorted mix of Dead Kennedys, Buzzcocks, and The Pixies which leaves a drooling grin on face and heart, though to be fair all the tracks on the album do achieve that with ease.
Stepping back a little in the evolution of the band the remaining sextet of songs are those from two years before the previous ones, not that you would know it in regard to quality and excellence. As soon as the best track on the release Field-Noise sets off its sonic alarm and the rampant thumping rhythms assault the ear the strongest rapture is fully engaged. Early Killing Joke fused with Mad Capsule Markets, The Melvins, and again Alien Sex Fiend, is the best way to describe the genius at play here, a moment of sheer brilliance and the best song heard in a long time.
Things are just as stunning through the songs Diablo Bianco with its blood thirsty rhythms and scattergun riffs, The Dirty Dice and its viral melodic wantonness and its devilishly discordant hooks, and Tension. The third of these is an acidulous burn of spiky vocals and sonics within a bedlamic presence of manic invention and sinister energy, oh and quite brilliant. The now entrenched treacherously seductive splendour is continued by the equally sensational Wiener Kids and the closing glory of The Serpent & The Pig, the former a riotous ball of mischief which incorporates all the goodness of Pere Ubu, early XTC, and Cardiacs in a twisted embrace and the latter an invidious bitch slap of bedlamic invention and tribal instinctiveness through the thoughts of one wicked set of minds.
It is the stunning end to a sensational album and one can only drool over what will come next from the band. Zebras have grabbed album of the year honours for 2012 with ease and the hearts of The Ringmaster Review.
Find out why by listening to future podcasts of The Bone Orchard.
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