3 out of 5
Label: Hydra Head Records
Produced by: Andrew Schneider
For those who were maybe missing the connective tissue that brought Cave In from their early metal days to Antenna and then the half-step back to Perfect Pitch Black – well, you can very much hear it in Cave In’s bassist’s side project, Zozobra. Not to suggest that Scofield was solely responsible for the alternative rock aspect of Cave In, just that the influences were always there, and that they surely attributed to Zozobra’s debut – created during that post-PPB lull – Harmonic Tremors. Focused around Scofield’s scuzzy, distorted bass lines and guitar rock riffing, he’s accompanied by Santos Mantanos’ drumming throughout, and then some vocal assists by Adam McGrath. The sound is, ultimately, rather familiar – things are mostly amped up feature hardcore shouts, but the song constructions are rather conventional grunge – with none of the various elements involved doing much to elevate things into especially notable territory. Scofield’s growly vocal range hits a similar pitch throughout, and the lyrics are a bit too open-ended for anything grabbing; Mantanos’ drumming is perhaps better suited to more atmospheric acts like Old Man Gloom and ISIS (both of which he’s been part of) – someone with a bit more propulsive or dynamic style could’ve played off of Scofield more effectively. Andrew Schneider’s production gives the material warmth, but again, this maybe isn’t a great match: the warmth carves off the edges on the guitar / bass, and doesn’t do anything to dress up that percussion.
Still, a good rock song is a good rock song, and Harmonic Tremors – while lacking in instantly catchy or standouts riffs – is full of good rock songs, with the added aggressive oomph of the hardcore vocal stylings. And the back half of the disc starts to carve out some more original ideas, playing with the space between guitar and bass to shake up the song construction a tad. However, the generally shorter runtimes of these tracks – between 2 to 3 minutes – doesn’t give them enough time to fully make their mark. The bones of the album are quite good, but leaning in to that experimentation, and perhaps synced up with rougher production, could’ve made Zozobra something more than a side project.