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Zoax - XIII

[17th February 2014]
[Siege Of Amida Records]

01. Bitter. Angry. Fake.
02. Burn It To The Ground
03. High
04. Jekyll Meets Hyde
05. Mind Game

XIII is an interesting choice for the title of your debut EP. The number has a lot of connotations: the traditional omen of bad luck; a number of mathematical importances; and a variety of religious and lunar intricacies.

The strongest link I can think of – which is likely purely incidental, most likely – links with the chess piece on the record’s front cover. There’s a popular theory that links the Friday 13th phenomenon with the infamous Knights Templar, who were disbanded on that day in 1307. It’s also considered an unfortunate day to commence new journeys – like releasing your first record together – but if there’s any link at all, we think ZOAX would more likely to be throwing convention to the wind and pissing in the face of fortune; they don’t need luck.

It may of course just be a nod to the year in which they got together. Formed only twelve months or so ago, the band are comprised of a plethora of talented individuals, whose savvy shines through remarkably well. Bassist Joe Copcutt is probably the best known, having played in Rise To Remain and punk supergroup AxeWound previously, but what is remarkable about a band so early in their career is that they sound like they’re all pulling together, in the same direction.

Guitars pop and buzz; at times bouncing along with energy, and at others evoking a more post-rocky feel, with delay. The songwriting is superb; always the right note is chosen, or the correct effect utilised. It’s not overly techy, and it doesn’t djent in the slightest. This is certainly a freth of bresh air.

There are a number of contemporaries that spring to mind - Exotic Animal Petting ZooThrice and Circa Survive being just three – but that’s more to do with the similarity in focus; just writing damn good songs with a really good sound, rather than trying to fit within a certain style. Bands like these straddle genre boundaries, and are all the stronger for it. There are sections of songs that recall these bands – the guitar tone in “Bitter. Angry. Fake.” in particular is reminiscent of EAPZ’s last one, Tree Of Tongues – but you’re going to get that with anyone really.

We’ve discussed the legion positive traits of frontman Adam Carroll’s performing ability before (check out our two live reviews from last year), but that’s all in a live environment. On record, it’s clear to hear that his voice has buckets of character. If you think about all the great voices that grace the pop charts post-X Factor, it’s undeniable that they have ability up the wazoo, but they’re usually tepid as fuck. Carroll is a more than competent singer, but there are extra qualities that make him truly enigmatic: there’s real bite in his harshes, and attitude in his delivery. The speed at which he delivers certain lines reflects the aggression of them – like he’s trying to get everything out at once – but others soar with a bittersweet quality: “Just leave my broken mind for a different time, and take on what I’ve learned before it gets burned.” from “High” is sung with anguish and a sense of defeat. The two vocal styles mesh within songs, and along with the many-faceted musical composition, it leads to the EP feeling innately juxtaposed within itself.

What is notable is that each of the five songs on offer has its own character. I’ve been spinning the opening track for months, and it’s still a firm favourite, but the others have their own charm that unfolded with time – slowly, if I’m truly honest, because I really did play that song to death. “Jekyll Meets Hyde” is one that it is getting its hooks in more and more; its timbre and pacing shifts around constantly, keeping you interested throughout, and it builds constantly to some truly epic sections towards the end of the song.

ZOAX are going places; this much is undeniable. XIII would be a strong debut for any band, but for a group so new, it’s more remarkable still. They are the complete package of muscle and restraint; of songsmanship and performance, and if they aren’t on everyone’s lips by the end of the year, I’d be incredibly surprised.