Listening to the heavy synth band Zombi is like zoning out to the opening credits of some imaginary sci fi or horror film. As you listen to the synth strings well up and overpower the mix, and the Neil Peart-like precision of the drums you can almost picture some imaginary scene of intense space flight. Or in other parts you can see an eerie, foreboding street light illuminating the way to some blood-soaked finale for a group of horny coeds.
What I’m trying to say here is that Zombi’s music is very specific. It pulls from a very particular emotional pool. Keyboardist/bassist Steve Moore and ace drummer Anthony Paterra were obviously very much influenced by 70’s and 80’s horror films and the soundtracks that scored them(they named the band after George A. Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. ‘Zombi’ was the name given to it for it’s Italian release.) Goblin, John Carpenter scores, as well as the baroque leanings of composers like Fabio Frizzi and Walter Rizzati echo in the progressive tendencies of Zombi’s music. Since 2004 Zombi have put out five albums, their newest is the excellent Shape Shift. A double album filled with dark synth landscapes, progressive drumming, and an overall feel of an epic score to the best sci fi masterpiece you’ll probably never see.
If heavy synth music isn’t your thing, then you may want to turn around right now. In fact, I’m not even sure why you’re still reading this. When you step into Zombi’s musical world you should know what to expect. “Pillars of the Dawn” is the opening salvo that greets you at Club Zombi, and it’s killer. Heavy groove permeates the track and Paterra lays down some killer rhythm leaving Steve Moore open to fill the nooks and crannies with an oscillating synthesizer pulse. If in the wrong hands, heavy synth can fall into the category of “cheesy” very quickly. That’s never been a problem for Moore and Paterra as they also pull just as much from progressive rock as they do horror soundtracks. “Total Breakthrough” has the feel of Rush’s “Subdivisions” mixed with a touch of The Fixx before the track takes off into the outer rims of the universe. “Mission Creep” keeps the drum ‘n bass show going while an arpeggiated synth rolls along effortlessly. This would be playing in the arcade as some kid is beating the hi-score on some mysterious video game. As he wins he gets sucked into the machine and has to fight his way back through the game, this time for real. At least that’s what I see.
I think one of the biggest strong suits that Zombi possess is their ability to pull you out of the everyday and throw you in some other headspace. The cinematic qualities of their music is undeniable. The fact that Steve Moore has made a name for himself as a film composer helps that. His scores for The Guest and Cub are filled with these amazing moments of depth and mood creation. Those attributes bleed well over into what he does in Zombi. A song like “Interstellar Package” really puts you on some dark and desolate spacecraft in the middle of the cosmos. Paterra brings the mood up when needed and pulls back at just the right moment. It’s a stunning 8-minute trip through the blackness of space. Shape Shift is filled with these moments from the very beginning, and closing track “Siberia II” ends this spaced-out trip with over 14 minutes of dark synth slow burn. It’s a song that builds on itself slowly, never changing motifs or even tempo. It reminded me of the excellent “1966 – Let The New Age Of Enlightenment Begin” off of Sinoia Caves’ Beyond The Black Rainbow S/T from last year. It’s menacing and hypnotic, just how we like it.
Shape Shift is the most prolific album by Zombi yet. It’s a mix of the epic and grand, as well as the harder edged progressive they’ve done in the past. This is also their most accessible album to date. If you’ve thought about delving into the world of Zombi, Shape Shift is a great place to start.