Review: King Zebra – Survivors
Golden Robot Records/Crusader Records (17/09/21)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Hailing from Zurich, Switzerland. King Zebra explode onto the scene with their first full length album. The band have been around since at least 2015 and have toured extensively, releasing an EP in 2019. It took a global pandemic to get the band to settle down and complete this album. For fans of the band, it was worth the wait. This is a strong collection of songs. The band rides the line between modern and traditional old school 80s rock with tunes that certainly make them stand out from other melodic bands that come from Switzerland.
The album opens with the cleverly titled ‘Under Destruction’, a high octane rocker that’s one of those “dangerous while driving” songs that can make you hit the gas just a little too hard if you’re not careful. The album then sails into first single ‘She Don’t Like My R’N’R’, with it’s bluesy swagger that’s a different beast altogether from the first track. From these two songs you can ascertain this is a band that is capable of touching on various genres of hard rock and delivering impressive results.
The album builds its strength from there. Third track, ‘Desperate’ is a favorite of mine, with its old school glam/sleaze rock feel. ‘We’re The Survivors’ and ‘Hot Cop Lady’ are catchy, melodic, high energy, and a lot of fun to listen to. ‘We Are One’ has elements that remind me of Dokken’s ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’. Being a huge Dokken fan, that’s a tremendous complement. Lead singer Eric St. Michaels (ex-China) is assisted on second single ‘Wall of Confusion’ by vocalist Guernica Mancini of Thundermother. With her powerhouse vocals she takes a good song and fires it into the stratosphere.
There are so many great tracks but I have to spend some time discussing my favorite track, ‘Rush’. Sometimes simplicity can make a huge difference when it comes to a tune that delivers. The band takes the “verse, bridge, chorus” paradigm and throws it out the window. The song is a basic 2/4 beat from drummer Ben Grimm with a solid rhythm from bassist Manu Judge. They make the unique decision to replace Verse 2 with an extended solo from guitarist Roman Lauer. Nothing spectacular to his playing, but just a lot of feeling and emotion as opposed to fast frets. Towards the end of the song, the track kicks into double time before falling back into the chorus. A complete surprise, but I love it when songs take a direction I did not anticipate.
I usually find one or two songs on a release like this that don’t work for me, but every song ranges from good to great. The only thing I could point out as a critique would be the band name. I am not sure your average music fan would ever check out a band called King Zebra. It is neither a cool sounding moniker nor a band that sounds like they should be taken seriously. King Diamond…King Kobra…King…Zebra?! If you feel like one of those people, I implore you to get past the name, as this is a band that will certainly make some noise in the hard rock landscape and needs to be heard by both fans of newer and older sounding Rock N’ Roll.