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4 stars Zombi-Spirit Animal-2009-4/5

If you like John Carpenter's work as a composer, and you like Rush, it is about time for you to hear one of the best new bands out there, Zombi! Zombi combines heavily Rush influenced drumming, with lush atmospheres from tons of analogue keyboards. Zombi is made up of two guys. You have Steve Moore, who does most of the keyboard work, but also is the bass player, and he does a killer job at that! Then you have A.E. Paterra, who plays the drums, and his style resembles Neil Peart's incredibly.

With Spirit Animal, Zombi has done it again, they have created yet another solid and enjoyable album. Clocking in at almost 58 minutes, and only with 5 tracks; Spirit Animal holds some long tracks, allowing the real progression of Zombi's style to take it's course.

Starting with the title track Spirit Animal. They don't waste any time getting you right into the feel of the album, with a 14 minute track. Starting with some soft chorus like keyboard playing building up to the almost slow motion rock that leads the track. Then towards the middle of the track, there is a break down of the song, with soft flute and guitar. This is all backed with keyboard hums, until the mellotron makes its appearance, causing me to think of Genesis, with the guitar, flute and mellotron. Then it breaks back into the same theme from the beginning of the track, now with a very intense mellotron playing, until it finally fades away.

Spirit Warrior This track begins with a lot of energy, letting you know that it is not going to let up anytime soon. The progression of this track is amazing. It builds tension amazing well, all while playing some John Carpenteresque keyboards, with superb bass playing and drumming. It breaks down a few minutes into the track, only to begin to build you up again. You are left at the end with an incredible force of power behind the music.

Earthly Powers This track starts out with an assaulting keyboard line, that would have you think of Goblin. This drumming and keyboard playing builds up to a breakdown of the song. The breakdown is led by precise and crisp drumming, with a strong bass line, and a sequenced keyboard, which are constantly growing in intensity and speed. While the speed continues to build the drums and bass drop out, while a mellotron comes in to help build speed. Suddenly the drums and bass come crashing back in, with even more speed. The keyboard become more maniacal, and then drops out, leaving the drums and bass to finish the track off.

Cosmic Powers There isn't too much to say about this track. It is more of the Zombi classic keyboard and drum building. The interesting part of this track is that, instead of staring out at slower, and less dense pace; it seems that this track almost progresses backward. Which to me is an interesting thing to for Zombi to have done. It is effective, and works well for a shorter track.

Through Time One thing that bugs me about this track, is that the guitar and bass playing in it are a little too heavy for my taste. It starts out with some very heavy sounding keyboard, until they bring in a heavy riff. The drumming is what really looses me in this track, it is very disappointing to hear this style of rock drumming, when our ears were just delighted to bask in the drumming of the previous tracks. The drumming brings itself back a little ways into the song, but is drowned by the heavy riffing present at the time. Slowly in this section, does the keyboard try to bring some build to it, but just ends up fading out. At about 9 and a half minutes in, the keyboard pops back up, with a really cool sounding sequence (I would love to hear this in another Zombi track). Finally the riff is taken down and out of the song, with the keyboard leading the way out of the album. The fading out of this song is really interesting, and is a great way to end an album. Over all this song, is the weakest track. If you like heavier songs though, this one might appeal more to you.

In the end the newest addition to Zombi's collection was well worth the wait. They really pulled off some interesting songs, most of which I enjoyed from beginning to end. Like I said, if you like John Carpenter, Rush, and even Goblin, you should definitely check this album out. If not, do yourself a favor and get at least one of Zombi's albums, they are all great!

Report this review (#205755)
Posted Sunday, March 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Frustrating is the best adjective I can come up with to describe this album. The first three tracks are stunning masterpieces, not of progressive electronic, but of symphonic rock- a regal surprise for me, seeing as how I only acquired this album in the course of broadening my musical horizons, as it were. The last two tracks, comprising almost half the album, are so boring it is downright unbearable, as though no thought or effort was put into them, especially in terms of variety. For that, it's a pity, but I highly recommend this album anyway, it if only for the first three pieces.

"Spirit Animal" Immediately when I first played this recording, my mind went straight to my favorite album of all time- Yes's Tales from Topographic Oceans. The opening segment had that same feel, and I'll be damned if I didn't get really excited. The bass maintains a static riff, sliding back and forth between octaves throughout much of the beginning before giving way to what I can only describe as symphonic bliss, alternating between major and minor chords, producing a majestic feel and making great use of the synthesizer as the lead instrument. It all falls away though, ushering in a darker, duller section of piano, acoustic guitar, and Mellotron. The stately symphonic rock returns just before the eleven-minute mark, and it is saturated with every staple of the genre.

"Spirit Warrior" The second track takes on a more electronic approach, but still incorporates quite a few symphonic rock elements. The chunky bass guitar and the synthetic choir are the grandest constituents of the piece.

"Earthly Powers" The third track kicks off with a cacophonic theme shared by the synthesizer and guitar. As the bass takes over this theme, it provides even more compositional opportunities, and the band takes them, ultimately creating a piece that sounds a fair bit like latter-day King Crimson. Fans of The Power to Believe will no doubt get a kick out of this, so long as the heavy use of the synthesizer isn't a turn-off.

"Cosmic Powers" This is the point of the album where things take a sharp turn for the worse and head downhill going south. Electronic grooves that are boring to begin with are repeated, with the only change being the music shifting down a half step or so. The percussion mercifully takes over during the last few moments.

"Through Time" The second that grating synthesizer tone rang out, I felt I was in for a headache. Really, how long can one stay in 5/4? While interesting at first, the whole business grows stale rather quickly. It takes three minutes or more to fade out. That's honestly really all there is to say about this seventeen minute bore.

Report this review (#245371)
Posted Tuesday, October 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Retired Admin
4 stars In all honesty, I bought this album based on the beautiful elephant cover. I´ve always had a sweet spot for those silly trunks, that in reality function as their nose...?

The album is called "Spirit Animal", and the music within truly reflects that. I know that the listener will almost always associate the tunes with the cover (that´s why most of the songs on Close to Edge "feel" green), but I believe Zombi´s new effort intertwine these artistic aspects to the fullest, and you will find yourself listening to the music thinking you´re a part of a giant migration across the African plains. The music shifts from electronic doodlings to grand almost pompous symphonic pieces, that feed off each other and makes for a wonderful listening experience.

Take a dash of Tangerine Dream, "Force Majeur - Through Metamorphic Rocks" to be exact, and a dash of Chris Squire on bas - topped of with some intricate drumming and you´re halfway there... This is by no means a "band" boiling soup on the leftovers of old prog artist. They have their own sound much credited to the talents of Steve Moore who plays everything here except for the drums.

Some might think that the overall picture fades due to the repetitive nature of the music, and if you´re a big fan of music that shifts and turns on a dime, you might be in for a nasty surprise. This is probably the closest I have ever come to the exact opposite music of Gentle Giant...

The first song is my favourite and the elephant migration feel is all over this one. -Think Disney´s "The Junglebook" on acid... "Spirit Warrior" lives up to its name, and you are instantly guided in between two horny elephants fighting furiously for some sweet sweet lovin. Watch out for number three as he lights up the sky in a giant forest fire, that evokes the deepest fears and frights. A mayhem of wildlife running in all directions... "Cosmic Powers" introduces the small but invigorating tea-time break for all hippo´s, snakes, lizards and bewildered giraffes, that might include some yoga for the youngsters. Final track takes you to the dense rainforest. Thick layers of sound that repeats in eternity and finally forms an enormous carpet of sound, that ever so slightly shifts form and makes your mind wander to the treetops overhead.

Music for daydreamers and folks who watch too much Animal Planet.

Report this review (#256322)
Posted Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Third outing for this Eastern US duo, and by its title, Animal Spirit, it indicates somewhat of a return to more earthly preoccupations, even if the propos is still aerial and mystic. It is rather ironic that their music being so aerial is illustrated by a mastodon of an animal, but I guess it's up to the listener to see if link there is.

The first two tracks are obviously linked and both confirm their respective title's subject musically by sounding much like some of the 70's giants, like Yes, Genesis, a tad of Floyd for the triumphant opener and Tangerine and Eloy for the follow-up. The next two tracks are again linked together by their titles and Earthly Powers return to lash symphonic prog ala Yes. The lengthy finale (better renamed Outlasting Time) is a slowly evolving tracks that hovers between Hawkwind, Ozric, Crimson, Tangerine Dream, and others that makes the whole thing rather exciting and hypnotizing, if it was not overstaying its welcome

While I've cited many names in this review, most from the 70's, Zombi's third album might be a tad derivative, but it is not a clone nor can it be called retro-prog either. Although I've not heard the second album, I must say that I've enjoyed both this one and the debut quite a bit. I've no idea whether this duo tours, but from listening to their music, IF they do, it is certainly not as a duo.

Report this review (#260899)
Posted Friday, January 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars What a silly name for such a strong band, yet another unpolished gemstone hidden in the back alleys of rust belt America. The metallic edge to their music is entirely appropriate for a group forged in the erstwhile steel town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, specializing in throwback synth-rock played with plenty of muscle and an oddly anachronistic sound, thanks to all those old-school analog keyboards.

They certainly make a lot of racket for a simple duo. Steve Moore handles the bass guitar and synthesizers, but please: no Geddy Lee comparisons. There's a certain stylistic similarity to RUSH, but the music of Zombi is entirely instrumental, setting an example I sometimes wish their Canadian counterparts would follow more often. A.E. Panterra plays all the percussion, and it's his energetic drumming that separates the group from much of their Progressive Electronic competition, giving the album an aggressive momentum from start to finish.

Together they pack quite a combined punch, with no shortage of power but sadly lacking any atmospherics or subtlety. Even the softer moments of the album, like the Mellotron- driven middle section of the 14-plus minute title track, carries an undercurrent of barely suppressed testosterone.

Elsewhere it's all big cinematic gestures and heavy sequencer patterns, fortunately without a Space Rock cliché in sight, even in a track titled "Cosmic Powers". The companion piece "Earthly Powers" has something resembling the dissonance of KING CRIMSON (filtered, once again, through the power chords of RUSH), and the tireless Panterra approaches spontaneous combustion in the kinetic "Spirit Warrior".

But it's in the climactic "Through Time" where the pair really makes a statement. After a brief and almost melodic (but still very loud) introduction, the track settles into a menacing, blockbuster horror movie soundtrack for the balance of its 17-plus minutes. Other reviewers here apparently couldn't find the patience for it, but the driving intensity is hypnotic over such a long stretch, and the odd meter keeps the music from ever getting too stale. I like how it piles on the noise in a merciless onslaught of sound, like a cybernetic army gone berserk. And the fully three-minute long fadeout indicates the duo might be influenced by techno-trance outfits like The Orb as much as by guitar-age Electro-Prog from the 1970's (the sonic guerrilla warriors of HELDON circa "Stand By" would be another obvious touchstone).

Sharp as it is, the music of Zombi can hardly be considered cutting edge. But I applaud the band's energy and zeal, and their dedication to what these days is a sadly unfashionable style of music.

Report this review (#303102)
Posted Sunday, October 10, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Spirit Animal by Zombi is progressive electronic music with more of a symphonic progressive rock touch and elements from traditional rock instruments such as electric guitar and acoustic drum kit, but the music still has a very progressive electronic feel. The soundscapes on this album vary in texture and intensity, sometimes ominous and sometimes very wondrous and delightful. As other reviewers have stated, the Spirit Animal theme and the rock-oriented influence on this album seems fitting to the movement to more organic sounds in Zombi's music. The first track, "Spirit Animal", is very Genesis and Yes influenced symphonic electronic rock, dominated by synths and powerful drums, and includes multiple passages that sometimes include acoustic guitar touches. "Spirit Warrior" is similar, but a bit more aggressive in its delivery, and has a bass-dominated passage that fits well with the more rock- oriented feel of this album. "Earthly Powers" still follows the same example set by the previous two track, but with an even darker feel. The album gets progressively more aggressive as it moves forward, and "Cosmic Powers" is next up on developing a darker, more electronic feel. This track is dominated by repetitive bass-like keyboards that move steadily with the strong percussion, but it doesn't develop at all except for the track ending in a drum solo. "Through Time" seems like a continuation of the previous track, also utilizing the bass-like keyboards, except with less energy and more of a sludgy elephant-like walking pace tempo, still accompanied by powerful drumming. It speeds up, but the mood and overall effect of the song doesn't change at all.

I liked this album for what it was. I don't really consider Zombi to be a full on progressive electronic duo, but more of an experimental duo attempting to combine the genres of progressive electronic, symphonic prog, and heavy prog. If that is the case, then they do it well. I get a very strong Rush-meets-Schulze-meets-Solaris impression from this album, and it really isn't bad music. I'd say this album has great crossover appeal across the genres noted above.

Report this review (#438073)
Posted Saturday, April 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Spirit Animal' - Zombi (6/10)

Space rock duo Zombi's third outing sees the band adding some new live instruments to their synth-driven sound, as well as generally widening their palette of sounds. Zombi has always been a group that is fixated on the vintage sounds of early progressive electronic music, the likes of which include such idols as Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. It is quite pleasant then that the band has now gone on to be more focused on live instrumentation than before, although the sound heard on 'Spirit Animal' is overtly electronic in nature. Without sacrificing their core sound, Zombi has reinvented themselves, and in doing so, have created the most promising album of their career. Unfortunately, the glimmer of excellence here is lost on an inconsistent album flow that seems to dip as the album progresses.

The first two tracks that 'Spirit Animal' have to offer are among the best work that Zombi has ever done. Complex textures, with lead guitar work (a first for this project) and just enough ideas to make the fairly long songs worth their time. Although the compositions still are firmly rooted in minimalism and are most often directed towards lengthy buildups and patient texturing over any sort of instant payoff, the amount of sounds and layers in the music here is greater than it was with the previous two records 'Surface To Air' and 'Cosmos'. All in all, I found myself very impressed with the way the album opened, although by the time the album reaches the third track, it is clear that the song quality keeps decreasing as 'Spirit Animal' goes on.

By the third track, there is still the complex layerings of synths and Rush-inspired drumwork, but some of the ideas will far too repetitive and sampled for their own good, leading to the music even reaching the point of being somewhat irritating by the end of the track. The last two tracks on the album continue this trend, with the last track (reaching seventeen and a half minutes in length) carrying on Zombi's tradition of having an 'epic' at the end of each album. Sadly, this time around, the closer 'Through Time' has very little going for it, and by the time the album is over, there is almost the sense that the listener has been cheated out of a consistently impressive listen, considering how well the first half of the album turned out.

Once again, I find myself mildly underwhelmed by Zombi, but I can't help but acknowledge their strong suits, which are surely evident. The end result is an album which at times excellent, and at others a fairly mediocre listen, leading to an enjoyable, but troubled product.

Report this review (#463088)
Posted Thursday, June 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Zombi are a instrumental duo from Pittsburgh who make music that is influenced by Tangerine Dream, Rush and Italian band Goblin (from whom they took their name, after the soundtrack to the film Dawn Of The Dead). This was the first full album I had heard by them. I was interested in them for their mix of bass/drums and mostly analog synthesizers. Unfortunately, their 2011 album only features synths and drums, apparently. It was nice to hear some electric guitar on here as well. Basically, their sound is a mix of TD's keyboards and the Lee/Peart rhythm section combined with both rhythmic and melodic elements from Goblin. Zombi can be much more intense and powerful than any of those three, however.

The title track opens with ethereal synthetic choirs in a majestic fashion. Once the drums kick in the track goes into really good symphonic prog territory with electric guitar. Later on it gets quiet with some nice piano, Mellotron and acoustic guitar (this really surprised me as I thought they were strictly synths/bass/drums!). The song builds up to more symphonic prog. In contrast, the rest of the album is more energenic, aggressive and rockin' in general. "Spirit Warrior" starts out as a symphonic groove. There is some great drumming here in places. Gets darker and more aggressive sounding before eventually becoming ambient and atmospheric. Returns to a groove which is now more subdued than at the beginning.

"Earthly Powers" starts out rockin' and groovin' with cool synth melodies that later on are played on guitar. Goes into a slow-paced groove with synth and guitar arpeggios. That section builds up until everything gets more spacey and ambient. Towards the end drums and bass come back as the synths play earlier parts, but now the whole tempo is much faster. "Cosmic Powers" opens very techno sounding. Once the drums kick in it goes into a hard-edged groove with chord changes. Pretty much stays there until you hear some flanging effect towards the end along with overdubbed percussion.

The 17 1/2 minute "Through Time" opens with a menacing riff, first on distorted synth then bass. Later the music gets very intense and dramatic. Great drumming during this section. Some horror movie style synths start to play overtop. Gets almost drone-like as interesting sequencer parts appear. Everything but those sequencers start to slowly fade out and lower in volume. Some sci-fi synth effects at the end as the sequencers continue to do their thing before fading out themselves. This is not perfect but it is some great recent music. Fans of Heldon and other electronic groups who make use of guitars and drums will most likely enjoy this. 4 stars.

Report this review (#537996)
Posted Friday, September 30, 2011 | Review Permalink

In my mind, ZOMBI's SPIRIT ANIMAL is an absolute hit. I am a huge, appreciative fan of keyboards and synths that have that classic 80's and early 90's retrograded sound to them, and that's what is given exquisitely to the listener from 2 wonderful composers STEVE MOORE and A.E PATERRA who are largely influenced by other classic electronic prog composers like GOBLIN and TANGERINE DREAM. Essentially if you are a fan of GOBLIN, TANGERINE DREAM and even VANGELIS for that matter, you will absolutely love ZOMBI with this album release. Heck, this is an album that was released in 2009 but sounds like it could have come out in 1991. Let's be clear though, this album is not entirely retrofitted for the retro crazed listener. There is a strong element of modernity in the sound of the acoustic guitar and Bass and Drums by MOORE and PATERRA. ' For instance, the 2nd track SPIRIT WARRIOR consists of very modern sounding electric and acoustic guitars with a very non dated bass sound as well. Overall. A very good track and a nice take on how you can combine a very retro 80's sounding synth with modern sounding guitars and bass not to mention, drums as well.'

Meanwhile, listeners may be slightly Dissapointed with SPIRIT WARRIOR guitars sounding a lot like the 17min epic track THROUGH TIME, which is the last track on the album and a creative finish to a solid instrumental album. Anyway, it's really the synth and keyboards that really tie everything together and make each track very attractive sounding. Even the 3rd track, EARTHLY POWERS has somewhat of a jazz like feel to it while COSMIC POWERS (track 4) is Darker and more brooding like SPIRIT WARRIOR with its guitars and drumming. Very fast too!

Above all. Let's just get into the real heart of the album and that is the epic 14min opening track SPIRIT ANIMAL. For me, this is an instrumental that I live for. It has an incredible and ethereal modern and retro sounding syths and keys with beautiful ambient soundscapes accompanied by awesome, powerful drums and electric guitars. You cannot ask for anything more here, especially if your in love with 80's sounding synths. Also, with the deep ambient elements in ZOMBI's overall sound there can be traces of a space rock feel in the music resembling the likes of PINK FLOYD. Sound intriguing to you? Good. Go buy this album and blast it. You won't be sorry. This is a well composed and well structured album where by all 5 tracks are very good and encourage you to drift off and think about the unknown with its groovy soundscapes, which is essentially the whole point of this album and this style of music. Enjoy proggers. MOORE and PATERRA's SPIRIT ANIMAL is getting a at 4/5. It's terrific. So what are you waiting for? Go drift off into la la land and enjoy yourself. :)

Report this review (#953110)
Posted Friday, May 3, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars What a let down!

I had reservations about the band's chosen name, but since I had the opportunity to hear this album, I put some time aside for it.

The first track just blew me away! A long piece inviting echoes of the better moments of early-'80s Tangerine Dream. Pure pleasure!

But my excitement was short lived.The second tune has cut my initial euphoria rather short. It's a piece studded with urban pace, a life I left behind decades ago for the peace and tranquility of living in a small fishing village on the East-Coast of Australia by the Pacific Ocean. Now, "pacific" is a term I can happily relate to, but this tune doesn't really fit the image. Still OK, but more unsettling than pleasing.

That urban psychosis gains even more momentum on the next tune, somewhat reminiscent of excesses by Robert Fripp of the Belew era, something I just can't warm to, but some people will no doubt love this piece. Not bad at all, but definitely not my preference, not even for a rainy day. Too repetitive and as such, boring.

Track four carries on in the TD vein - of the "spirited" filler material side. Loud, repetitive and - hardly better than a worn LP skipping back endlessly. One on certain substances may derive enjoyment from this noise, I am not one of those.

The fifth, last and longest track is another Fripp-like psychotic threadmill, laced with Jean- Michel Jarre doing Metal. Almost good, but misses the mark. Too frantic, too nervous, no room for such around my place.

These guys have potential, but for my taste apart from the first tune, the rest is forgettable - and very quickly before my walls would absorb too much of it. With the same effort, a masterpiece could have been delivered, but the end result here barely scrapes in for a 3 star rating.

Report this review (#954177)
Posted Sunday, May 5, 2013 | Review Permalink

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