Violation. Zebras, whose self-titled is divided into two sides: ‘Impending doom’ and ‘the fate of a world plagued by soulless shits’, are all about violation of the sonic kind. Essentially the result of a mass gangbang between The Melvins, The Butthole Surfers, Khanate and Paradise lost, Zebras play with a sludgey, visceral, punk-orientated doom that is designed to slowly brutalise the listener to the point of screaming in ineffectual despair at the horror of it all. Imagine being trapped in a bamboo cell with Colonel Kurtz whispering in your ear… for ever… and you are close to imagining the dark, foetid muse that inspire Zebras.
‘The dying sea’ opens out the record with a bass-laden sound that fizzes and throbs with spite, like a bubo lurking just beneath the surface of the skin, infected and not-quite-ready to burst it shudders and tears without ever actually exploding forth in a shower of pus and mucous meaning that come the end of the track you have not even been granted the relief of such a torturous climax. ‘The mighty bayonet’ is a faster, more driven track that sees Vincent Presley unleashing his Jello Biafra-style howl over a frenetic, fuzzy punk blast that would even make The White Mice pause as to the sanity of its inclusion on an album. It is irredeemably, spectacularly horrid and it rules – fans of adventurous noise rock will love it, and for all its foul ugliness, few bands match the adrenalin surge you’ll get from pumping this out at neighbour-threatening volume. ‘Queeny gloom doom’ has an almighty groove ably supported by the glacial synth provided by Lacey Smith (somewhat unconventionally the band comprises a vocalist/guitarist, synth player/backing vocalist and drummer with nary a bassist in sight) whilst the music bizarrely recalls Mclusky at their most endearingly sarcastic. The leaden trudge the band unveil is gloriously, hope-sappingly dark and yet possessed of a blackened energy most clearly noted on ‘A turd by any other name’ which channels Faith No More’s ‘Cuckoo for caca’ through Atari Teen Age Riot’s brutal synths and leads you into the side-ending ‘black cancer’ – a feral punk attack that has a memorable chorus just begging to be screamed out by a massed audience.
Moving on to the brilliantly titled second side and we hit ‘the fate of a world plagued by soulless shits’ and opening track ‘field/noise’ which sees the band moving in a direction more allied with punk and art rock than the searing alt-metal of the first side. Once again the closest ally here is Mclusky with whom Zebras share a similar sense of rhythm and groove and it is interesting to hear the subverted disco beat backing up a guitar driven track of such ferocity. ‘Diablo Blanco’ is so hypnotically brilliant it would be the perfect single if the world was filled with people who actually liked music rather than the soulless X Factor shit which currently plagues our airwaves and then ‘the dirty dice’ slam dunks you with its crazy synth parts and oddball melody-buried-in-the-fuzz – a trick previously displayed with some dexterity by Nirvana, The Pixies and The Wildhearts. ‘Tension’ has the most mental vocals seen outside of a Mike Patton record and then ‘Weiner Ride’ kicks off with a twisted motif that is part nursery rhyme part MSI blast of multi-coloured insanity. Final track, ‘the serpent and the pig’ rounds things out in fine style with a song that mixes up Aphex Twin style melodies, ferocious drums and a vocal performance that borders on hysteria.
‘Zebras’ the album, overall, is fascinating because it shows how the band developed in the time it took to record the two sides. Musically excellent, Zebras are an offensive, exciting, adrenalin charged riot that smashes home with real force from the moment the opening barrage of ‘the dying sea’ thunders out of the speakers to the closing seconds of ‘the serpent and the pig’. Terrifyingly intense, you can only imagine the live shows this band are capable of, but in the meantime if you want to hear something original, powerful and full-on then Zebras are for you. This is one of the most exciting records SonicAbuse has come across in a long time.