Zulu use devastation, smoother sounds to salute Black culture on captivating ‘A New Tomorrow’

Photo by Alice Baxley

Heavy music largely is known for dwelling in the morose, the thorniest of elements, the sea of negativity. That’s not every artist/band, mind you, but it’s the bulk of it, and it makes for a great companion when we are feeling the same darkness. But today we have something that approaches things a little differently. It’s in many ways a love letter delivered with a sledgehammer.

Hardcore/powerviolence unit Zulu can be as heavy and devastating as they come, but their debut full-length “A New Tomorrow” is something that stands apart from so many other heavy records in a good way. On their past work, the band has focused on the poor treatment of Black individuals around the world, but on this album, they’re in celebration mode. The band—vocalist Anaiah Lei (also of DARE), guitarists Dez Yusuf and Braxton Marcellous (guitar), bassist Satchel Brown, drummer Christine Cadette—directs its art to highlight the love and creativity in Black culture, the things that do not get the proper recognition by society at large. It’s an incredible record—15 tracks that crash down in under a half hour—that mixes driving heaviness, sultry melodies, and ruminations on their experiences in a world where they still are marginalized.

“Africa” is an imaginative, wondrous starting piece by Aisha Burns and Precious Tucker that opens the storybook and sets the stage, moving into “For Sista Humphrey,” where the fires being to rage. Guitars get a dose of adrenaline, jarring and trudging, growls menacing before melting into a dream. “Our Day Is Now” rampages as growls blast and shrieks up the ante, making your blood boil. The menace actually opens the possibilities of love and light as Lei calls, “It takes one, everyone.” “Music To Driveby” bludgeons with thick, mucky playing, the thrashing increasing dangerously, turning everything to a boil before a sample of Curtis Mayfield’s “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue,” washes over the bring a sense of unity. “Where I’m From” features Pierce Jordan from Soul Glo and Obioma Ugonna from Playytime, and it brings thick crushing, growls and shrieks coming together to add layers of power, and the howl of, “We’ve been here, and we ain’t going nowhere,” registering as a battle cry, charging as sounds zap and eventually disappear into space. “Fakin’ Tha Funk” (You Get Did)” wrecks and slays, the vocals streamlining energy, the guitars scratching at festering wounds and drawing blood. “Shine Eternally” is one of the longer tracks, running 3:02 and taking the form of a jazzy, smooth instrumental that makes it feel like numbing sensations are climbing through your body, glowing with velvety tones.

“Must I Only Share My Pain” is a quick interlude where myriad voices ask, “Must I only share my pain?” as the tornadic effect heads into “Lyfe Az A Shorty Shun B So Ruff” where raucous guitars take over, chunky tempos rupture the ground, and the growls gut. The playing then comes unglued as Lei wails, “This won’t be forever!” pushing the negativity to the back, grasping at a positive future. “From Tha Gods To Earth” is doomy and thick when it starts, guitars splattering, melodies corroding, and the energetic core creating a deep impact that crumbles chest cavities. “Créme De Cassis” is a spoken piece by Aleisia Miller and Tucker that reminds me a bit of “Blackcurrant” from “My People … Hold On,” as over piano music the words about living as a Black person in America and constantly having to struggle to reshape the narrative. “I grow weary of repeating our plight while never highlighting the beauty of us,” Miller says. “So often forgotten in conversation is our perseverance and triumph.” It’s a beautiful piece that’s poignant and yearning to be truly heard. “We’re More Than This” explodes with power, the lines rapped, spat even, Yusuf landing with, “I hide my ghetto from whites not because I’m embarrassed of, they just don’t deserve my essence to use for they character, then turn around treat me like I’m the caricature.” “52 Fatal Strikes” features Paris Roberts from Truth Cult, and it delivers a molten fury, guitars heating up, lashing with proper attitude. “Put to death, just like that, justified, that’s what you’re thinking,” Lei jars as the guitars heat up with menace, the final moments boiling in noise. “Divine Intervention” is spoken interlude track with sounds snarling, and the disgust over Black culture being co-opted by people who are willing to steal the spirit as long as they don’t have to look Black striking a very sobering note. Closer “Who Jah Bless No One Curse” is the longest track, running 4:14 and entering to drum blasts and thrashy goodness, Lei howling, “They will always try, it’s violence in their eyes, Babylon surprised, ghetto youth pon di rise.” Lighter melodies arrive, heartfelt guitars and hand drumming fading out and returning to group calls of Bob Marley’s “Small Axe.”

Records such as “A New Tomorrow” are crucial in the heavy music world not only because it’s incredibly powerful musically but for the message and shakeup our world so badly needs. America is growing increasingly more hostile, and seeing this band stand up and celebrate who they are, their culture, and their struggles makes for mandatory listening and education. I’m sure I don’t listen as well as I should, and I’m trying to change that. Every track and word on here crushes and also is a reminder that I’ve always had it pretty good, and absorbing other voices and experiences is vital to growth.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.instagram.com/blackpowerviolence/

To buy the album, go here: https://flatspotrecords.com/collections/zulu

For more on the label, go here: https://flatspotrecords.com/