Shape Shift – ZOMBI

It’s been four years since Pittsburgh synth-prog duo ZOMBI has dropped original material. After re-releasing “The Zombi Anthology” earlier this year, Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra make up for the long wait not only with a brand new studio album, but Moore‘s freaky good retro soundtrack for the Belgian horror film “Cub”. Moore‘s synth-bound, creepy score for the film, which is about Cub Scouts victimized by an unhinged poacher on a camping trip, will remind veteran horror junkies of John Carpenter/Alan Howarth and Lucio Fulci. No surprises there, but Moore‘s near-flawless emulation on “Cub” is startling, even with his pedigree.

Meanwhile, the latest offering from ZOMBI, “Shape Shift”, takes a lean drift backwards following the thrusting synth-wave grooves of their last full-length, “Escape Velocity”. This time, they nestle somewhere between “Surface to Air” and “Spirit Animal”, with a touch or two of the “Cosmos” days, appeasing their longtime followers. Aside from the full-frontal “Pillars of the Dawn”, the escalating power prog of “Total Breakthrough” and the brisk, bass-clomping “Mission Creep”, “Shape Shift” is stuffed with slow cookers that still bubble high.

“Pillars of the Dawn” is stocked with thundering rolls and clanging cymbals from A.E. Paterra, along with GOBLIN-esque key vibrations and synthetic echo-chants. Considering the amount of time spent on the road with GOBLIN, Moore and Paterra serve up “Pillars of the Dawn” as a gleeful homage. “Total Breakthrough” thereafter retains Paterra‘s near-agitated whumping, the chord patterns being reminiscent of many other ZOMBI compositions. With all the trademark squealing keys amidst the rumpling bass knocks, “Total Breakthrough” still establishes its own rowdy personality.

It’s the 8:34 “Interstellar Package” where ZOMBI settles the album down and exacts slow and steady grooves for Steve Moore to weave his sinewy synth layers. One can feel the Gary Numan-esque caresses of the high and low key loops, which slow down even farther the longer the track oozes. It’s globby ear candy to accompany the absinthe-sipping read of “Saga”. As with all ZOMBI tracks: take “Interstellar Package” in with headphones so you’re soaking up its entire ambiance.

Moore and Paterra‘s motivation on “Diffraction Zone” is the sedation of their listeners rather than rattling them as in the earlier moments of “Shape Shift”, albeit, this is only for half the ride. “Diffraction Zone” glides gently upon Steve Moore‘s winding bass and A.E. Paterra‘s reserved pulse until a brisker pickup midway cuts both men loose, propelling the album into the catchy, mid-tempo strut of “Toroidal Vortices”.

The rest of “Shape Shift” may not move at full-flight, but that doesn’t mean the songs don’t soar. The listener can decide what’s cooler about “Shadow Hand”, the Carpenter/Howarth key frolics or the skulking bass lines derived from “Night Rhythms”, off of 2006’s “Surface to Air”, this time funked way up. The tempo is still slow on “Metaverse”, but the beats grow heavier, the synths denser and there’s a stately, TANGERINE DREAM-filled wonderment to the cut. Finally, the 14:40 “Siberia II” demands its audience’s patience and presumed love of drenching synth-scapes as it methodically slinks and teases, paying off huge once A.E. Paterra comes in and hammers the track down. Again, headphones are a prerequisite as the synths curl from each ear, circumventing the cerebellum with spritzing tickles amidst the song’s looming groove.

Though most ZOMBI fans received “Escape Velocity” favorably, enough listeners expressed concern as to whether or not Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra were wholly dispensing with the organic parts in favor of an electro-dance motif. Those palatable pumps gave “Escape Velocity” a hip and sophisticated flair that whispered of “Midnight Express”” and Mitch Murder, deserving praise instead of condemnation. Still, no true ZOMBI fan is going to walk away from “Shape Shift” feeling dissatisfied. This album re-establishes ZOMBI as aesthetic head music and in case you didn’t get the message before, grab ‘dem headphones, whatever you do.
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Shape Shift – ZOMBI
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Shape Shift – ZOMBI

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