Album Review Ceremony - Zoo2-5 Stars
‘Zoo’ is a change in style. Unfortunately, it feels as though such a change was made simply for the sake of it.
Upgrading record labels can have a stigma. According to alternative music fans, the endearing romanticism of a small DIY label outweighs the bigger budget of a larger company. An abundance of artists make this crossover. And Californian act Ceremony have joined that ever growing roster, with their switch to indie heavyweights Matador. Ceremony are, by popular admittance, a band who fuse hardcore and punk. So how would their abrasive attitude translate to a larger audience? Well, on their fourth and latest record, ‘Zoo’, many key ingredients fall by the wayside. Concisely, ‘Zoo’ is a change of a pace.
Released as a single in January, and kicking off the album, ‘Hysteria’ serves as the welcome mat. Some anthemic (or perhaps just simple) drums power the song. Yet the most obvious indication of a shift in sound is the guitar work. It’s overdriven and soaked in distortion. But the relatively slow riff is completely unoriginal. It’s punk rock by the numbers. At this premature stage, many fans of Ceremony may hold out hope for something faster, rawer, and more original. Unfortunately, bad news awaits: Nothing of the sort occurs.
Perhaps a track like ‘Quarantine’ encapsulates ‘Zoo’ as a record. Its pace middling, its structure convoluted. Sometimes a pace less ferocious can result in more attention to detail, but the song seems stock in every way possible. ‘Brace Yourself’ is an experiment in noise, but it’s entirely forgettable and simply unenjoyable. There are key changes aplenty, but they seem totally unnecessary. By the time ‘Adult’ plods along, every sluggish riff seems like a repeat of something that came before.
Meanwhile, ‘Ordinary People’ seems an attempted look at the past. But the song is flat, and completely devoid of any real urgency – an ingredient that was obvious, and beneficial, in the bands earlier recordings. Album closer ‘Video’ sees some passion captured. A dense atmosphere curates the entirety of the track – it’s brooding, dark, and even melodic. Experimentation occurs as well, and is well executed. The guitars have an invaluable sense of emotion. And every second of the song implies care was taken. It’s a genuinely flooring, impressive, and sonically wondrous piece of music. It’s everything the album set out to be, but wasn’t.
‘Zoo’ is a change in style. It sheds the energy and power of early Ceremony and proposes gloss, melody, and immediacy. It may sound a familiar route for a band, but it feels as though such a change was made simply for the sake of it. There’s much to be gleaned from greater resources, but ‘Zoo’ is a chance gone begging.