Words by Brett Ensbey.
Up until recently, I lived in a world without ZED. Now that world seems distant, unfamiliar and strange. I don’t ever want to visit that place again.
Hailing from San Jose, California, this four-piece powerhouse has a sound that has been described as blues rock, alternative metal and stoner rock, but honestly, none of these labels do them justice. Although singer/guitarist Pete Sattari and bassist Mark Aceves have been playing in bands together since 1998, ZED officially hit the scene in 2007, adding guitarist Greg Lopez and drummer Sean Boyles to the mix. Now here we are, twelve years and countless jaw dropping live shows since the bands inception and the boys are ready to drop their latest offering ‘Volume’, available through Ripple Music.
I had no idea what to expect when listening to ‘Volume’ for the first time, but when I hear the words blues and rock used in a sentence together, I am immediately excited, and I was not disappointed.
The album kicks off with the opening track The Other Kind and the intro to that song alone (a riff that just screams rock n roll along with a drum roll that would make Vinnie Paul proud) is the perfect way to set the stage for the listener. As straight up old school rock music comes blasting through the speakers, every note seems to punch you right in the ear drum and just as you wrap your brain around the music, the vocals kick in. I don’t even know how to describe Pete Sattari’s singing, except to say it’s like someone took the best parts of Chris Cornell and Chad Gray’s vocal styles and mixed them together.
Throughout the album the band’s style changes from song to song as they borrow from their many and varied influences, but one thing remains the same, from the previously mentioned opener right through to the album’s closer The Troubador, ZED is an extremely tight band. I cannot speak highly enough of the musicianship displayed on ‘Volume’. Each instrument stands out on its own while at the same time complimenting the others. When describing heavy styles of music, you will often hear people use almost clichéd phrases like “face melting solos”, “groovy bass lines” and “thundering drums”, ZED take all these clichés and make them true again.
A huge shout out has to be given to Sean Boyles for his amazing drumming on this album. It’s not often that the drums are what stands out for me personally when listening to a band, but I was blown away. Whether using nothing more than the cymbals through a more mellow verse, pounding on the drums in a way that you can’t help but stomp along to or smashing out a fill to bring the band into a chorus on songs like Take Me Home Again, Sean does an excellent job at setting the pace for the album.
With that being said, a great drummer needs a great bass player to complete the rhythm section. Enter Mark Aceves. If you’re like me and love a good bass line, then ZED will not let you down. Wings of the Angel, a song that bounces between a grunge/blues style verse and a harder edged rock n roll chorus, shows off the bassist’s abilities in a way that not a lot of bands manage to do. Mixing it up between funky and heavy styles of playing Mark delivers the exact right bass line for whatever song he is playing on every time.
It would be damn near impossible to have an awesome rock n roll album without an awesome rock n roll guitarist, and that is exactly what ZED has in Greg Lopez. I should clear up however that Lopez isn’t just an awesome rock n roll guitarist, but an awesome guitarist in general. For the most part, it seemed to me that the lead guitar work is what gave ‘Volume’ its bluesy sound. At times it was almost as if the guitaring was more like a voodoo spell, hypnotising the listener, than a musical instrument being played by a mortal man. From blues licks and those face melting solos I mentioned earlier to his almost psychedelic solo throughout the song Chingus it seems like there’s nothing this guitarist can’t do.
I know I touched on the vocal style and range of singer Pete Sattari already, but I couldn’t go any further without giving this vocalist the praise he deserves. Not only does he make every pitch seem effortless, but the delivery of each vocal performance completely enhances the story telling element of the lyrics in each song. Sattari showed such a wide array of influences throughout the album, from songs like Wings of the Angel where it was as if Chris Cornell was delivering Jim Morrison style storytelling to the instant classic Hollow Men which sounded like his inner Iggy Pop sung the verses while letting his inner Robert Plant belt out the chorus. And all of this without once sounding like he was trying to emulate anybody else. This is a singer who knows how to make every style his own.
Overall, I would say that ‘Volume’ is a must hear album for any fans of no-gimmick, no-nonsense rock n roll. There really is something for everyone on this album and I highly recommend giving it a listen when you get the chance. In my opinion this type of music is the reason bands like Led Zeppelin mixed blues with rock n roll back in the day, so bands like ZED could one day continue the legacy.
‘Volume’ by ZED will be available from the 26th of July 2019 through Ripple Music.
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