The Madison band drops a new album on July 14 and opens for Melt-Banana on July 15. (Photo by Dylan Remis/photo editing by Lacey Smith.)
Zebras’ self-titled 2012 album captured the Madison band transitioning from its twitchy post-punk beginnings toward doom-metal and thrash influences, and embracing new drummer Shane Hochstetler of Milwaukee’s mighty Call Me Lightning. On the new album The City Of Sun, due out next week ahead of the band’s July 15 show opening for Melt-Banana and Torche at the High Noon Saloon, that transition is essentially complete. Guitarist/vocalist Vincent Presley, who sang in a piercing yip in Zebras’ first incarnation, has lowered his voice to crusty, baying screams, and his riffs now balance twisty noise-rock figures with a deep rhythmic chug. Synth player Lacey Smith’s Moog has evolved from a spacey noise machine to a sludgier and more nimble bass instrument. But perhaps the most significant change is how much more Hochstetler (who also engineered the album at his Howl Street Recordings studio in Milwaukee) has integrated his drumming style into the band’s songs. In Call Me Lightning, Hochstetler almost never plays conventional-sounding rock-drummer parts—instead, he plays around the melody and rhythm, forming phrases that hold up as hooks in their own right. Throughout The City Of Sun, you can hear Hochstetler’s toms rumbling to evoke a more conversational, swinging interpretation of precision death-metal pummeling.
On the album’s second track, “The Turning Of The Bones,” Zebras hit a lot more fiercely than I could have imagined them doing just a couple of years ago. Smith and Presley create a wall of low-end pestilence and Hochsteler’s snare scrambles up it, but the heaviness is also kinetic and dynamic. Smith’s synth bass part and Hochstetler’s drums work together to stir up crafty drag-and-sprint rhythms, and Presley’s vocals lurch against them with snarling spite. Stream the song below. The City Of Sun will be available digitally on July 14, with a vinyl release to follow this fall.