|By Zach Patterson||Sunday, 1 Mar 2009|
Zombi, for those not familiar, is a 2 man band with music that is highly inspired by horror movie soundtracks of the 70′s and early 80′s. Stuff you would have heard in a Romero movie, or a Carpenter movie, or an Argento movie, that’s where Zombi is coming from. With the release of their last album, Surface to Air, I felt they took a large step forward as a band and created music that stood out from their early works as actual songs, instead of feeling too much like a score. They were long, sweeping, sometimes a bit repetitive, but ultimately great and creative instrumentals. On Spirit Animal, they have gone even further in that same direction and produced one of the finest albums of the year so far. As the album opens with the title track, you immediately get a sense of what Zombi is bringing to the table. Around the 1:30 mark, you are treated to some wonderful and regal sounding synths. It’s easy to see why there’s a monstrous elephant running through the thunder on the front cover, because the first thought I had was how organic and wild this song sounds. It’s also a very slow and thoughtful song, as you can obviously tell during the slow acoustic part around 5:30. It puts forth a certain sereneness that is a bit of
a new element for Zombi. It’s clear this is still Zombi, as I could see this in some sort of little known foreign horror flick from 1980, but it definitely has catchiness and dynamic that makes them seem like much more of a layered, intriguing spacey prog-rock act. The second track is Spirit Warrior, which is perhaps the crowning performance on the album. It starts off with a fast, heavy Sega CD-esque synth beat and from there builds and builds throughout the song with synthesized chorus, more layered synth, and intense, frenetic drumming. As the song begins its second half with solid bass beat, the song swells into a very spaced, galactic feel with more synths and this still intense driving beat that feels like some sort of uncertain event is about to happen in whatever movie they are scoring. One of the things I love about this album is that as I listen to it, I’m pretty much making up movie scene ideas in my head that fit the music, and it’s very easy to do with Spirit Animal. Their music is very visceral and imaginative, as track 3, Earthly Powers, starts off with synth that warbles back and forth like some sort of siren going off that can easily call forth ideas of something going horribly wrong and the protagonists are racing to stop disaster. And while the song is very long (as is every song, since there’s only 5 tracks), as I mentioned before, the songs are nice and varied and offer a bit less repetitiveness than Zombi has at times showed in the past. A good example of this is Cosmic Powers, which at first seems like it may be a very basic repetitive track with another of those Sega CD synths I love, but instead the song actually seems to shed depth as it goes and becomes more rugged as everything except the drums fades out and you are left with a very sparse and tribal sounding beat to end the album. It’s a nice unpredictability that really puts more into the album. The final song, Through Time, starts off with easily the heaviest beat on the album, pulling you in with an ominous wall of bassy synth. Then, when the drums kick in, the song really gets going into a distinctly industrial dirge. And while the song goes on for perhaps a bit long (clocking in at over 17 minutes), it’s without a doubt a menacing, aggressive song that feels like it could be a climactic chase scene soundtrack or a battle in some Terminator-type movie. As I said, it’s probably a little too long, but it provokes some great imagery. All told, after listening to this album for nearly 2 weeks straight, I think it is perhaps Zombi’s most ambitious work to date, and my favorite album of 2009 so far. It’s an intense, layered, and unique masterpiece that’s world’s different from their previous album, but still unmistakably Zombi. If you are looking for a moody, atmospheric instrumental album that also stands on its own as a great rock album, look no further.