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ZOLA JESUS – ‘Okovi’ Album Review


Zola JesusSet for release on September 8th via Sacred Bones Records, Zola Jesus has crafted a profound meditation on the trauma of losing the loved ones around you and the record speaks of the tragedy of death with great wisdom and clarity.

Before recording this LP, Nika Roza Danilova moved back to the woods she grew up in Wisconsin and built a house just steps away from where her dilapidated childhood tree fort is slowly recombining into earth. From the opening of Doma with its creepy vocal layers and keyboards sounding like the perfect accompaniment to a wake, we know we are in for some cathartic and somewhat dark tracks.

Okovi translates as ‘shackles’ and through these 11 songs; Danilova is searching for ways to throw off the chains. The super violin opening to Exhumed with the fast heartbeat drums and stunningly soaring vocals all combine to craft a sense of foreboding and foreshadowing sounds to come. It’s powerful stuff with a certain sense of sheer class in construction as well as delivery.

Soak takes on a Ravonettes type vocal with some odd electronic rhythmic blips before launching into an impressive chorus full of melody and strength. The storytelling on Ash To Bone is backed with a variety of backing vocals, keyboards and a general ambiance of longing.

With OkoviZola Jesus has crafted a profound meditation on loss and reconciliation that stands tall alongside the great works of its genre. The album speaks of tragedy with great wisdom and clarity. Its songs plumb dark depths, but they reflect light as well. The album is somewhat genre defying channeling at times the likes of Lana Del Ray or some of the recent Icelandic bands like Samaris. Songs like Siphon showcase the velvet voice of Danilova with big drums helping the keyboards deliver a great package. Meanwhile, the downright spooky five minutes of Veka is disconcerting from the opening synthesizer through to the voices that flit in and out (sometimes spoken backwards) before the reassuring lead vocals provide some hope!

Zola Jesus maintains the hopeful vibe on Wiseblood and the 57 seconds of NMO are almost church organ like in soundscape but with a dissonance that is disconcerting.  The beat is picked up with a Sisters Of Mercy drum machine effort supporting some excellent vocals on the beautiful Remains – a stand-out track for sure that blew me away. Ending with Half Life Zola Jesus returns to the quasi-religious keyboard and operatic vocal treatment to produce a sonic landscape reminiscent of Sigur Ros…super conclusion to a truly unique and somewhat stunning album.

Get Okovi by Zola Jesus here:

24/10 – Malmo, SE – Ikonst
25/10 – Gothenburg, SE – Nefertiti
26/10 – Copenhagen, DK – Jazzhouse
28/10 – Cologne, DE – Luxor
29/10 – Brighton, UK – The Haunt
31/10 – Glasgow, UK – St. Luke’s
01/11 – Manchester, UK – Band on the Wall
02/11 – Leeds, UK – Belgrave Music Hall
03/11 – Norwich, UK – Arts Centre
04/11 – Liverpool, UK – Stanley Theatre
06/11 – Dublin, IE – Whelan’s
07/11 – London, UK – Village Underground
08/11 – Paris, FR – Le Point Ephémère
12/11 – Geneva, CH – La Gravière
14/11 – Roma, IT – Monk
15/11 – Bologna, IT –  Locomotiv
16/11 – Bern, CH – Dampfzentrale
17/11 – Milan, IT – Magnolia
18/11 – Zagreb, HR – Mocvara
20/11 – Nuremburg, DE –  Z-Bau
21/11 – Vienna, AT – Fluc
22/11 – Berlin, DE – SO36
23/11 – Leipzig, DE – UT Connewitz
25/11 – Frankfurt, DE – Mousonturm
27/11 – Brussels, BE – Beursschouwburg
28/11 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
29/11 – Hamburg, DE – Uebel & Gefahrlich




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