One of the simplest facts about Zebulon Pike is that they are a band based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After that, things become much more complicated, as they engage in a genre of music that can only be described as auditory mad science. Formed in 2002, every single one of their albums has been a brain-demolishing piece of experimentation: And Blood Was Passion in 2004, The Deafening Twilight in 2006, and Instransience in 2008. With each release, they have become more dense, more intelligent, more volatile. Space Is the Corpse of Time continues this progression, spiralling out in a universe of it’s own making.
Their band name comes from an American historical figure, an officer and an explorer after who also leant his name to Pike’s Peak in Colorado. This is extremely fitting for a band that goes about the process of writing an album as though they were launching an expedition. Listening to Space Is the Corpse of Time is an act of discovery, as if the band were feeling their way through a new musical landscape. Listening to the depth and sparkle of “Echoic Worlds” is like watching from spaceship windows as starts are born and galaxies accrue.
Space Is the Corpse of Time is incredibly complex and littered with musical references. In fact, it is possible to treat the listening experience as a game of spot-the-influence. A chugging riff here will evoke Meshuggah, then an eerie and caustic atmosphere will conjure Bloody Panda, and then the avant, anxiety-inducing drumming will call up YOB. Masters of skillful combinations, Zebulon Pike combine a classic rock aesthetic pioneered by bands like King Crimson with an experimental jazz spontaneity, prog rock complexity and Mike Patton-esque genre-defying energy. But with all the name-dropping, all the references that Zebulon Pike inspires, at the end of it they are, most of all, themselves. Their aesthetic is singular. They are a cyborg of a band, a plasma, marrying the organic and the electric, futuristic instrumentation with a very human heart. No matter how many times the nebulous “Powers of the Living” morphs into a new musical shape, it retains a curious, pensive emotional tone, like a touchstone.
There is much that sets Zebulon Pike apart from their peers, but a key component of the success of this album is the intelligence, the deliberateness with which they deploy various tones and techniques. Every tremulously clean tone and grating bit of feedback, every bit of blazing speed or anguished slowness is carefully chosen and incorporated at precisely the correct moment. There is a moment in “Spectrum Threshold” when a passage with sludgy guitars suddenly clears, gentles, and the entire piece transforms. There is something part science and part magic about this style of composition, a kind of alchemy that takes base elements and handles them just so, combines them at just the right time and in the right proportions and suddenly, somehow, there is an overflow of liquid gold.
Zebulon Pike should be way, way more famous than they are. A band of brilliant composers with an equal mastery of contemporary classical and heavy metal styles, they consistently crease genre-defying, brain-melting music that is as transcendent as it is pleasurable to listen to. Give Space Is the Corpse of Time a listen, let it put down roots in your mind, and I promise you will not be disappointed.