With some rather cool artwork, Zoe impress on the packaging front right away and a little dig into the band’s bandcamp page reveals that they have a long history that helps to explain the confidence that the album, ‘raise the veil’, exudes. Formed all the way back in the 90s in Northern France, Zoe have released just two albums prior to ‘raise the veil’, presumably favouring quality over quantity and extensive bouts of touring as an antidote to ennui. Whilst ‘Make it burning’ and ‘dirty little sister’ were a mere three years apart, ‘raise the veil’ took some time to reach the public, but the good news is that, if you’re a fan, the wait was worth it whilst if you are coming to this band for the first time you’ll not be disappointed.
‘Raise the veil’ opens with a short, almost progressive introduction named ‘Kellar’s song’ which pairs a mournful mellotron with arcing feedback before segueing into the sweet, flanged riff of ‘don’t hold my gaze’, a song that sits comfortably between the pulsing rock of Monster Magnet and the dry-as-a-bone riffing of QOTSA. It’s clear from the off that Zoe have no interest in reinventing the wheel: fans of stoner will recognise the tropes the band employ here from the nicotine and tar-worn vocals to the taut riffs and mid-tempo percussion, but Zoe play with an unbridled energy and enthusiasm that is hard to ignore and with few bands currently tackling this style of music their adherence to the stoner sound is most welcome indeed. ‘Slam dance union’ sees the band pairing ‘songs for the deaf’-era QOTSA with a harder edge, the riffs diamond sharp and the chorus set to stun whilst ‘dusty truck’ packs a seriously hefty punch, the band cutting loose with a vicious energy that can’t help but quicken the pulse. Taking a moment to offer a breather, ‘Astral projection’ is a psychedelic stomp with a deep, dark groove,that recalls, of all things, Marilyn Manson’s ‘tourniquet’. It has a notably different feel to the other tracks on offer here and, as a result, stands out from the pack as the album’s highlight.
The album’s title track is another track that builds off the back of a massive, chrome-plated riff that roars like a newly refurbished Harley Davidson ad which sees the band straining at the heavy rock leash, with pounding drums and a sense of urgency that is impossible to ignore. Taking its time to build up a head of steam, ‘Roller coaster blues’ is a stunning, mid-tempo beast that lumbers along with considerable weight and a suitably sleazy atmosphere. In contrast, the aptly titled ‘The wolf’ comes storming out with blood in its nostrils and a hunter’s aspect. ‘Workie of the despair’ has a vicious, sludgy feel to it with its heavy central riff and Garcia-infused vocal and then we’re into the weird sleazy half-light of ‘eternal boy’, a track that sounds like Marilyn Manson playing Monster Magnet covers unplugged. The album draws to a close with ‘time is not on my side’, a full-on riff fest that once again sets the heart racing with its simple, yet potent, mix of gnarled vocals, crunchy riffs and crushing percussion. It leaves the album on a high and you’ll undoubtedly want to be spinning it again.
Overall Zoe have honed in on those aspects of the stoner rock scene that appeal to them the most and refined them. There is little here that can’t be found amidst the likes of the Kyuss / QOTSA / Slo burn / Monster Magnet back catalogue, but Zoe have arguably cherry-picked the best elements of each of these and condensed them into this powerful release. Certainly the band clearly get a kick out of what they’re playing and there’s a vitality to the recording that is impossible to overlook. If you have a hankering for all things stoner, then, you could do a lot worse than track down this impressive third album with its worthwhile, if somewhat familiar, sound. Hugely enjoyable, ‘Raise the veil’ is a recommended release that has plenty to offer stoner fans new and old.