3 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head Records
Produced by: Aaron Harris
Christ yes: this was the way to go with Zozobra, tightening up the shouty rock predictability of Caleb Scofield’s first release under the moniker. Though it suffers from a tangential problem of becoming a bit too same-soundy across its 8 tracks, it is so much more punishing and powerful than Harmonic Tremors, and the improvements from one disc to the next make it disappointing that Caleb didn’t have the chance to develop the project a bit more before his passing.
Bird of Prey is bookended by perfection: paired with new drummer (and producer, in this case) Aaron Harris, opener Emanate is full-on hardcore punk, all fast percussion on raw and ripping riffing and Scofield shouting at full strength. Closer Laser Eyes is similarly intense, but spreads its release out across 7-minutes of buildup – ideal for a closer. Inbetween, Harris and Scofield due a lot of good work, if maybe lacking in range. But I think this was mostly a smart decision from the two to cover up some writing weaknesses: Caleb is still sort of limited to predictable chord progressions, but the production is blown out this time, with a lot of extra layers slapped together and a roughness to the whole thing, Scofield promoting his screaming to the forefront and letting sung vocals slip way into the background. The net effect is that the volume and heaviness grabs you first, and so even though songs blend together, the songs, collectively, are not easy to ignore.
Some experimentation with ambient noise in the album’s middle suggests awareness of sequencing (also evidenced by those bookend tracks), giving us a break amidst the attacks, and also a step up on Tremors.
Some of the maybe-not-metal stuff, or the less impressive stuff, that would sneak on to Hydra Head could be justified as being tied to a particular artist or whatnot – like so-and-so’s side project – and the first Zozobra disc maybe fell into that. Bird of Prey, while ultimately still, perhaps, an “average” album, definitely earns its place though, with Scofield establishing a grabbing sound that was very much becoming his own.