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All posts for the month August, 2015

By Rick Polo and Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Editor-in-Chief and Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

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Artist: The Zou

Album: Love Kills Part Two

Release Date: 8/22/15

Rating: 9.7/10

Two long years have passed since The Zou released Kills Part One. The album was a real emotional rollercoaster of well-crafted pop love songs, dragged through barbed wire of sonic experimentation; a notable trademark of the band. The album literally left fans hanging on the edge of their seats, waiting for the follow-up. Now, with the release of Kills Part Two, fans can finally breathe as the Northeast Ohio Indie Rock staples have unleashed the masterpiece that was years in the making.

After a slew of lineup changes and delays, Zou mastermind Khaled Tabbara has teamed up with a plethora of noteworthy musicians to craft what could easily be his finest effort to date. Featuring the talents of Bernadette Lim, Katianne Timko, Billy LaGuardia and Tabbara’s brother Rached to name a few, the eclectic sound each musician brings to the table only adds more color to canvas. Producer Pete Drivere lends his signature polished-yet-somehow-gritty-rock-and-roll sound, for a record that transcends nearly every era of rock, yet still sounds vitally fresh.

Kicking off Kills Part Two is the simply-titled “Love.” A Baroque Pop tune with vocal harmonies reminiscent of Rubber Soul-era Beatles or Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. The opening track is airy and tense, perfecting leading into “Drop A Dime,” a Ben Gibbard-esque sounding number, that could fall somewhere between his work with either Death Cab For Cutie or The Postal Service.

“I Was A Tyrant” follows with a more Americana-meets-Baroque Pop vibe, and painful lyrics hinting at a one-sided relationship. From there, the hard-rocking “Ooglie Booglie” takes flight, giving a post-punk angst, both sonically and lyrically, not unlike that of The Pixies or perhaps some of Black Francis’ solo endeavors. The track features a standout riff that takes the record off into a whole other direction before taking another left turn with the following tracks.

The Katianne Timko-produced “Holy Moses” can best be described as “holy drums!” The electronic drums pound underneath a well-crafted pop song. The modern, but certainly not gimmicky, production feels more like The Zou taking a sonic step forward rather than a trendy cash grab.

Finally, Kills Part Two concludes with the Doo-Wop vocal harmonies of “Mon Dieu” (an early acoustic version performed on The Raw Alternative can be viewed here) and the climatic rocker, “Gun Moll.” With a collage of sound that evokes Animal Collective, “Gun Moll” featuring soaring guitars and some of the album’s most intense lyrics, leaving the listener again, at the edge of their seat craving more.

All in all, Kills Part Two features, some of, if not the finest music The Zou has produced to date! Standout tracks include “Ooglie Booglie,” “Holy Moses,” “I Was A Tyrant” and “Gun Moll.” With various nods to his influences, Tabbara takes his band to new heights, while still retaining enough of the classic sound fans have come to know and love. Lyrically, the album examines all the various angles of love and the multiple feelings it can provoke, much in the way of Paul McCartney, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James or even Martin Gore. Sonically, Love Kills Part Two is widely spread, much in the way of Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s or even Dark Side of the Moon. It’s indicative of a band reaching a creative high, but certainly not peaking just yet.

The Zou will be giving a performing at Suzie’s Dogs and Drafts in downtown Youngstown on Saturday, Aug. 22 as band of the official release of Kills Part Two.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Chelsea Wolfe

Album: Abyss

Release Date: 8/7/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Chelsea Wolfe is very much unlike any of her contemporary indie singer-songwriters. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Black and Doom Metal, and having a real affinity for the dark, she dares to dabble in areas that not many artists in today’s musical landscape would dare. Therefore, there’s much more than the average “doom and gloom” to Wolfe’s haunting soundscapes and blurred vocals; this being most evident on her latest effort, Abyss.

Rewind just five years earlier, Chelsea Wolfe introduced herself and her unique songwriting approaches and dark folk-meets-neo-psychedelia her debut album, 2010’s The Grime and the Glow. However, it wasn’t until her follow-up, 2011’s Apokalypsis, that her droning Goth Rock style began to take shape. She went even further with 2013’s Pain is Beauty, incorporating more synthesizers and electronic textures.

Fans of Goth, Shoegaze, Doom and Black Metal alike began to take notice, although the signature heavy/distorted guitars of said styles were either not present, or set somewhere in the background.

This is certainly not the case for Abyss, Wolfe’s noisiest and heaviest effort yet. Inspired by her own experience with sleep paralysis, the album is truly the soundtrack to a 3 a.m. nightmare. Opening track, “Carrion Flowers,” sets the tone with a terrifying Post-Industrial wall of synth noise that’s enough to give Trent Reznor or Nivek Ogre nightmares! From there, the volume hits 11 with the guitar-heavy “Iron Moon” and “Dragged Out.” The opening trio of songs set the tone for what’s to come, while successfully catching the ears of new and old fans, as it’s not exactly what one might expect from Chelsea Wolfe… until now!

Chelsea Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

Chelsea Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

From there, the piano driven “Maw” changes the pace sonically, while only descending deeper into Wolfe’s terrifying trip. Tracks like “Grey Days” and “After the Fall” showcase Wolfe’s lyrical ability, creating moods and emotions not unlike a painter’s brush on a canvas. “Crazy Love” and “Survive” nod to earlier material with a Goth-Folk vibe, with “Simple Death” and “Color of Blood” let ambiance take the lead. Finally, the droning “Abyss” closes the record with an eerie detuned piano and haunting string session, placing the listener into Wolfe’s mental state following the series of night terrors.

Don’t let the over-bearing darkness fool you, Abyss is equally beautiful as it is haunting. Chelsea Wolfe has a real raw emotive power to her voice, much in the way of PJ Harvey. She could bring a room to tears, or perfectly erupt into the noise of her band at any given moment, while barely raising her voice. This album is the sound of Chelsea Wolfe in prime, both as a songwriter and an artist who is continually challenging herself, yet successfully remaining true to her roots.

All in all, Abyss is Wolfe’s best work yet. This is a true testament to artistic progress. Standout tracks include “Carrion Flowers,” “Dragged Out,” After the Fall,” “Survive” and “Abyss.” This album is great for new fans. Those who appreciate the work of Curve, Om, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Swans or early Nine Inch Nails and PJ Harvey should find instant appeal.

Chelsea Wolfe will kick off a North American tour alongside Wovenhand on Aug. 27 in Las Vegas. Abyss is out Aug. 7 via Sargent House Records.