Ominous title aside, Zombi apply dramatic, enthralling edge to chilling nighttime vibes of ‘2020’

Photo by Matt Dayak

There’s a point toward the back end of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” where the shit has destroyed the fan, everything is in tatters, and it’s suggested everyone leave before it gets any worse. To which Clark Griswold replies to his wife, “Look around you, Ellen! We’re at the threshold of hell!” And there it is. 2020 in a nutshell.

That stupid opening is to break the ice so we can discuss the new Zombi album fittingly titled “2020,” which might suggest music that feels like it’s on the verge of destruction, where all hope is lost, and where your anxiety might as well just stop your heart in its tracks. But that’s not quite what happens with this album. Instead, we get the most ambitious Zombi has been in a while, a record that has guitars driving as much of the drama as the synth, and the music making your heart race as you weave your way through these nine tracks. The band—Steve Moore (synth, guitars, bass) and A.E. Paterra (drums)—creates darkly cinematic music again but this time delving into doom and sludge, grittier areas where they don’t always tread but make this album heftier and punchier, adding even more to its appeal.

“Breakthrough & Conquer” introduces eerie keys that turn into a tremendous melody line that feels like it could be the leading track for a movie. Strong guitar work accompanies it (they got an assist by Philip Manley from Trans Am)  that gives it a nighttime vibe, adding fluid leads to a spooky, fun track. “Earthscraper” folds synth into gritty doom guitar work, with everything grinding its way through. Sci-fi-style keys jostle as the playing bashes away before a humid haze hangs overhead, and the track disappears into a weird void. “No Damage” is the first of two consecutive tracks that gives off an early ’80s Rush vibe, which could not make me happier. Guitars churn as the synth floats, giving off a cool sheen. That melts into a sludgy pocket that has toxicity glowing beneath, ending with a rumbling fade. “XYZT” pushes keys into lush atmosphere, feeling both dreamy and punchy. Proggy playing gives off the feel of the aforementioned Canadian trio, while the music bubbles and zaps, the pace rumbles, and keys rain down into the shores,

“Fifth Point of the Pentangle” fades in as synth creates a cold front, as the bass drives into corners. That works its way toward the stars, bringing cool cosmos and star splashes that bleed into the night sky. “Family Man” is ominous when it starts, creeping into the room before the bass clobbers. The pace turns burly as it works its way further into the shadows while synth melodies entrance, and the track fades into majestic wonder. “Mountain Ranges” launches key sprawl as a calculated pace is achieved, and cool melodies chill the flesh. The pace is pretty steady throughout, treading waves and watching from the waters before it can come in and make its move. “First Flower” has drums awakening and the thick bass tunneling, while the keys create a mystical ambiance. The punches continue to land as the synth glimmers, the melody churns, and the music suddenly feels as if you have water filling your ears and slowly draining. “Thoughtforms” closes the album by introducing another great synth riff, while warm guitars wash in and change the temperature. The feel like is like early summer evening as the light starts to fade and the skies grow orange and purple. The leads begin to heat up before calm stretches, chilly breezes raise your flesh, and the track retreats into the final strains of daylight.

Two decades into their run, Zombi continue to surprise us as “2020” is one of the most jarring selections in their entire catalog. How strange it is that this music is arriving when it is, with a title that’s now incredibly ominous, though the music is imaginative, exciting, and bold. It’s a rare streak of color, a dash of energy in this motherfucking year 2020, a time period that shares a name with an pretty enthralling record from a band whose creativity doesn’t rest.

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