Zed -Volume (2019)

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What the release notes said:

Making their roaring presence felt in the Bay Area rock scene since 2007, with heavy footprints and sonically indelible marks are San Jose earth shakers ZED. With a sound based on the core principles of blues, heaviness and groove, this quartet is the genuine article. No bell bottoms, wizard sleeves or hip huggers for this crew. Instead, it’s a barrage of head-bobbing, air-guitaring, hip-shaking, blues-driven riffage as delivered by the true bastards of rock and roll.

From their inception ZED made a name for themselves with their crushing live shows and incessant grooves. Having played together in various projects since 1998, including releasing several albums with the band Stitch for Prosthetic and Metal Blade Records, guitarist/vocalist Peter Sattari and bassist Mark Aceves joined up with guitar wizard Greg Lopez and drummer extraordinaire Sean Boyles to create a sound that was uniquely their own. Drawing from their varied influences, ranging from classic ’70s rock to punk and hardcore, by way of metal and old school funk, ZED write music fuelled by nasty grooves. The band has even been called, “a pissed off Led Zeppelin with Chris Cornell meets Ian Astbury on vocals.”

In recent years the band’s momentum has exploded, signing to Ripple Music and growing into a household name in the stoner rock community. Their hard-grooving live show has seen the band perform as headline support at Maryland Doom Fest and numerous SXSW events. They recently capped off their first European tour with a benchmark performance at Desertfest Lodon, where Kerrang! Magazine caught their set and said, “Their booze-drenched blues’n’roll almost breaks into a riot as both band and audience raise the roof and plenty of Hell in the process, leaving the most triumphant first impression.”

My impressions:

“The Other Kind” opens with rampant riffs that grab you immediately. First impressions are important and this felt like old school rock. It was faced paced and driven. What also struck me was that often an instrument surfaces to spend time in the sun, without taking over, but to enrich the sound. It’s an honest production that is far from sanitary, which is very welcome. This music deserves to be raw. The vocals are assertive, yet easy to understand. The guitar work is driven and dexterous.

“The End” is characterised by simple and effective riffs and it has a simpler feel. Muted riffs and a pulsing bass line anchor the song, which settles, then soars.

“Wings of the Angel” starts with an echoed, pared back guitar. The pace then slows right down, which is fitting, because the lyrics are about being at a low, about being “down in the hole”. It soon steps up into a more robust sound, adding intensity to the track. This song will resonate with many people, lyrically and musically.

“Hollow Man” opens with inspired percussion and the track settles into an all encompassing groove, which continues all the way through.

“Take Me Home Again” starts with a different set of effects and a slower pace. The bass underneath is killer and the lyrics speak of a woman with voodoo powers. We have all been here – obsessed by a partner with dark magic. It’s clever and powerful. The vocals shine though, displaying Sattari’s skill and vocal range. The track also features an intriguing fuzz guitar effect towards the end that is somewhat dischordant.

“Chingus” opens with a galloping riff that gets right down to business. The guitars are prevalent throughout, using effects wisely to draw you in. The execution is crisp, with some killer tempo changes.

“Poison Tree” starts out assertively, then falls away, like the impact of poison. Clever percussion and muted guitar effects meander through the background. The track takes off again and is another about a relationship that borders on obsession, as Sattari’s asserts, “I can’t help myself, when it comes to you.” Again, we’ve all been there!

“The Great Destroyer” opens with a clever use of balance. It’s a complex track, utilising tempo changes and sublime percussion. Then, a blissful bass line comes to the fore.

“Time and Space” starts robustly, then minimises to core elements and plaintive vocals, where Sattari suggests, “Let’s run away to another time and space.” Timeless guitar work is augmented by an expansive solo. The integrated nature of the members of ZED is again abundantly apparent – the way that they weave around each other and work together is inspired.

“The Troubador” is long at well over 6 minutes. 30 seconds in there is a killer riff that provides enough energy to power a small city. The vocals take a bit of a back seat in this track, with each instrument coming to the fore from time to time. It is a showcase of the band’s individual and collective talents and it serves to be a great place to round off the album.

The band has been together for 12 years and this shows in the way that their individual talents aren’t used to eclipse each other – everyone has their time in the sun. It’s like there is a great level of trust, comfort and understanding between them, suggesting that in their time together they have developed a rare connection. This sounds like a band that has done their time and used it well.

I really enjoyed that ZED aren’t afraid to be unconventional in arrangement or delivery – it sounds like all parts of the guitars got a workout – as it should be.

Pete Sattari’s vocals are indeed impressive, conveying emotion and a sense of purpose in a clear manner.

Many times the music is hypnotic, with you getting lost in it, such is its rich simplicity. It’s a working class premise delivered in a masterful manner.

ZED have produced a brand of blues rock/ alternative metal that will engage and entertain. It’s an album that offers a changing experience with each listen – I heard something different each time. For this reason, it will be an album that you can listen to many times over a number of years.

8/10

Review by Greg Noble

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