November 6, 2015 Zombi – Shape Shift (Album Review)
The out of this world instrumental band, Zombi, landed on Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2001 with members Steve Moore on bass and synthesizers and Anthony Paterra on drums. Influences from George Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead soundtrack by Goblin, to legends such as Genesis, Tangerine Dream, Van Halen, as well as Pink Floyd, Zombi honed their skills to create a sound uniquely theirs. In 2004, Relapse Records signed the duo after they heard a couple of computer-made CDs, a self-titled album and The Twilight Sentinel. They then quickly released Cosmos that same year, which was hailed by positive reviews. This was followed by a tour and their 2006 Surface to Air, which again received a positives feedback and a growing fanbase.
As a result of the popularity they gained from those first two albums, Zombi was tapped to do the soundtracks for 2003’s Home Sick and 2004’s Murder-Set-Pieces. With some down time, Zombi experimented with their next albums, Spirit Animal in 2009 and Escape Velocity in 2011. Velocity is admittedly their most synth-centric album to date. After a two year hiatus that allowed the band to pursue their side projects, Zombi regrouped for Goblin’s first US tour that included additional dates for Moore’s synth work. Both bands were then invited to participate in Roadburn Festival ‘15, which provided the spark to ignite a much anticipated new Zombi album. That effort comes in the form of their fifth overall studio album, Shape Shift.
Shape Shift is Zombi’s new self-produced album released October 16th, 2015 via Relapse Records. It was produced at Machine Age Studios in Pittsburgh, as well as Moore’s New York-based studio. The 9-track album is pure, unadulterated dark rock beginning with “Pillars of the Dawn” as the synths kick in from the get go. A mid-tempo drum beat comes in as ominous chants break in at intervals. There is a hypnotic repetition to the piece as it builds to its end. Next, “Total Breakthrough” begins with a hard bass line as the synths slide in lurks as the funk drum line drives the melody. The bass guitar kicks in and adds to the immediacy of the piece. Moving onto “Mission Creep,” listeners feast on a funky bass-driven piece accompanied by high-temp synths and drums that build then fade to nothing. Out of cosmos comes “Interstellar Package,” with a brooding synth line accompanied by a taunting, stalking drum line and an unceasing bass line. Then comes a pause as the synths seem to study their prey. The drums follow suit and, finally, the bass seems to be trying to pierce defenses.
“Diffraction Zone” slides and disperses into an array of multi-chord of the synths as the bass drives before disappearing into the audible mist. It then returns with a faster version of the hypnotic, multi-chord synths. The bass and drums are amped as well. Then, all disappears. The 80s-esque “Toroidal Vortices” has a jovial beat with the bass and synths going in unison before the bass breaks into the melody of happy foreboding. It then rejoins the synths while the drums set the cadence. “Shadow Hand” comes in with another mid-tempo-driven drum line as the synths and the bass add the dark immediacy that rises throughout in peaks and valleys. “Metaverse’s” bass line lays on the darkness from the get go and does not let go as the synths weave themselves in and out while the drums serve to accentuate the situation. Shape Shift’s finale is “Siberia II,” an otherworldly piece with soaring synths and a 1-2 bass line that flows in peaks and valleys as bongos and a high hat kicks in. As this 14:40 track opens up, the volume builds with the tempo staying hypnotically the same like the stalker’s systematic walk.
Zombi’s Shape Shift takes listeners to the darkest reaches of the cosmos and the soundtrack to Moore’s and Paterra’s psyche It showcases the bass’s broodingly, sinister deepness while also highlighting its versatility to evoke different layers of dread. The synths and drums set the excitement, or lack thereof. CrypticRock gives Shape Shift 5 of 5 stars.