Album Review of ZagreuS: ZagreuS
Beginning to end on this album, ZagreuS combines a raw energy reminiscent of ’90s/’00s Detroit industrial metal luminaries Forge with the tunefulness and pop-friendly vocals of Blog favorite The Sweetest Condition to forge a sound that can only be ZagreuS.
The disc opens with “Times of Change.” On it, vocally, Adam delivers a raw industrial croaking growl, which trades on and off with Laurel’s soaring, Annie Lennox-reminiscent vocals with a steady beat and an ’80s new wave keyboard style wrapped in a wall-of-sound, musical blanket as its musical backdrop. This song opens the disc “big,” an advance sample of this album’s powerful musical character.
But there are other flavors and techniques deployed on the album, as well. Not surprising, as any top-shelf industrial/electronic group worth its salt experiments.
On “Possessor,” a catchy, driving beat and a sneaky rhythmic hook make this a very likely dance club favorite, with dueling vocal styles proving particularly complementary.
“Illuminate” is much more Eurythmics-meets-Thompson Twins than anything else on the album, with accessible beats, soaring vocals, some attention-grabbing spoken-word interjections, a very radio-friendly “we can have it all” transitioning vocal bridge… and, most of all, again, that rhythmic, danceable beat.
And while “Illuminate” particularly interests me from a song-structure, intellectual perspective, it’s the following track, “Punishment,” that I’m much more likely to remember a few hours later. Specifically, phrases like the tunefully-sung “you get what you give” offset against the gruffer “get what you give” (sans preceding “you”) and the less frequently used but more croakily growled “you wanted it” are delivered memorably – and perhaps repeated frequently enough to drive the point home – amid a mostly beat-driven rhythm with relatively sparse instrumentation. Even the song’s title “Punishment,” when sung, has its own barking style. Indeed, the contrasting, battling vocal deliveries are the driving factor that makes this is one of the more memorable tracks on ZagreuS’s self-titled album.
“A Whisper” is mostly rhythmically standard. Enjoyable but not a standout, except for the piercingly beautiful “Na na na na…” vocal overlay. Very cool. And am I the only one who hears it, or does Laurel have just a hint of a George Michael tone during some of her vocals in this song?
My remaining favorite track in this collection is its penultimate entry, “Prisoner of Missing Persons.” It blends the soaring-haunting vocal overlay with a stoically aggressive (if that’s possible) vocal croak, atop a catchy, just-slower-than-really-danceable beat, well-placed synth accents, and musical sound effects. Just a really cool mix of elements that create a memorable song.
And the disc closes darkly with “Withdrawn,” a somewhat foreboding track that signals the end… of the album, at least.
In its entirety, ZagreuS is an enthralling album from its namesake performers, a duo comprised of a couple of the top industrial, experimentally adventurous artists in Massachusetts, whose talent helps them stand out in what’s often a less visible genre in most local music scenes, beyond its core audience. Occasionally, an outfit like ZagreuS transcends genre to garner more widespread attention, usually deservedly so. Definitely deserved, in this case, for the talented duo of Adam Sloan and Lauren Marsh.
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