Zodiac_Grain of SoulOne day a man was trapped out on a ledge – don’t ask why – with no way to get down except to jump. The fire trucks came and laid out a net for him, but he wanted something safer. They brought a pile of mattresses, but he still wasn’t satisfied. “Use the new Zodiac record!” he called down. The firemen nodded in understanding. What I’m trying to say here is that Grain Of Soul, the newest release from German metallers Zodiac, is one of the safest metal records you’ll hear all year. It’ s also one of the least German-sounding records you’ll hear all year. There is no Teutonic terror happening here, just metal-by-numbers songs to while away the summer nights. All it’s missing is a power ballad.

Formed in 2010, Zodiac play a competent, straightforward brand of radio-friendly metal. Nothing on Grain Of Soul will have you pressing the Next button, but at the same time you’ll never hit Previous either. Things open in a mid-tempo desert rock fashion with “Rebirth By Fire,” and you know right away these guys like the simple, catchy riffs. “Rebirth By Fire” is emblematic of the entire album in that it is average – below the great but above the bad. Second song “Animal” speeds things up considerably, and is the most aggressive song on the album. “Follow You” is wussy metal, clearly designed with the goal of getting some satellite radio airplay, but it illustrates the main problem with Grain Of Soul: nearly the entire record is the equivalent of a pail of vanilla ice cream. Nobody hates vanilla ice cream, but then again nobody asks for it in the parlor.

The only song that stands out is “Crow,” a bluesy acoustic-driven number that has a catchy riff, memorable vocal melody, and perky arrangement. Just don’t listen closely to the lyrics. “It was time for us to die, it was time for us to lie, and let the crow fly.” What does that even mean? Lyrics are a major stumbling block on Grain Of Soul. Not since the Scorpions albums of the 70s has an album had such uniformly silly lyrics. It’s hard to find a song that makes sense, in fact. One can pick any song on the record and find goofball lines. Let’s try, oh, how about the moderately catchy “Ain’t Coming Back.” “Nothing is forever, together we surrender for sure. There’s nothing to remember we are walking in the fields of the pure.” Huh? Honestly, it makes you wonder how well versed in English the band is.

Zodiac_2016

Let’s be positive for a minute here, though. Zodiac are certainly competent musicians. The rhythm section (Ruben Claro on bass, and Janosch Rathmer on the kit) is tight throughout, whether on mid-paced numbers such as “Rebirth by Fire” or the faster “Animal,” and this goes for rhythm guitarist Stephan Gall as well. Certainly the most accomplished of the quartet is singer/lead guitarist Nick van Delft, who has a voice that suits the music and can also churn out some sweet lead licks. Grain Of Soul is also well produced in the modern sense, with a solid hi-def sound. Despite being mastered and squashed in keeping with the modern loudness fad, there is enough space in the songs’ instrumentation that ear fatigue never sets in.

Grain Of Soul is such a formulaic middle-of-the-metal-road record that it’s almost impossible to find anything that either stands out or sucks musically. It is safe, competently played, generic metal. The riffs are solid yet unmemorable. There are plenty of hooks to go around, but aside from “Crow” none of them really reel you in. The solos are tasteful but not mouth-watering. Nonsensical lyrics abound. “Follow You” is the worst song on here, and it’s not really that bad; just boring. If you’re looking for background music while you’re painting your house, this will work. Trust me, I’ve been doing it all week.

 


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Website: zodiac-rock.com | facebook.com/zodiac.rock
Releases Worldwide: July 29th, 2016

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  • This is the Saab of metal.

    • basenjibrian

      Ach! I loved Saabs. Now…if you had said “This is the Toyota Camry of metal” I would be nodding my head in full agreement. Preferably in beige or bland olive green!

      • Grymm

        Ford Taurus of metal?

        • basenjibrian

          LOL.
          I owned a CONTOUR once. In my defense, it was an “SVT” model. Not that I remember there being anything all that Special about this Vehicle Team member.

  • I like that you finally got your own by-line but you still have to review shit.

    • Don’t harass our staff!

      • I was just trying to commiserate! Let him review something good!

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Only you are allowed to do this!

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Baby steps. :) My next couple are better than this one!

  • The only question now remains, “What color?”

  • Reese Burns

    I’ll probably pick this up as easy listening for car rides or something. Not bad, but not terribly engaging.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    As I was reading the review, the word “Nickelback” kept popping up in my head. Listening to the embedded track, this barely qualifies as Metal… Being released on a Metal label doesn’t make it a Metal record. This is more like Commercial Hard Rock and I guess that’s where that “safe” quality comes from.
    I guess they never made it as a wise man or couldn’t cut it as a poor man stealing.

    • Reese Burns

      To me, this is very background noise-ish. Something I’d put on to (literally) fall asleep to in a car or on a plane or something.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      We could have embedded ‘Animal,’ it’s a better video and song, but you may as well hear the worst the record has to offer, right? But yeah, this is a lousy song. And I’m not sure where Steel found the promo shot, this is the only one I’ve seen where the lead singer isn’t proudly displaying his flame sleeve tattoo, which is just as generic as this record.

  • Scourge

    This is a shame really. Their album A Bit of Devil was really good! The musicianship was excellent, the production was excellent and it had really good songs. It was heavy blues rock done well. The embedded track is very disappointing.

  • hubcapiv

    Hmm. I thought they were Dutch.

    And that’s about the only surprising thing about Zodiac.

  • Thatguy

    Yo, Huck. SD is still oppressing you. I know I shouldn’t judge from appearances but I knew from the band photo that I wouldn’t like this. A unicorn would have been better.

  • DrChocolate

    “…a formulaic middle-of-the-metal-road record that it’s almost impossible to find anything that either stands out or sucks musically. It is safe, competently played, generic metal.”

    I feel like this easily describes about 98% of the Napalm Records roster.

  • METAL OTTER

    Just one grain short of soul-less.

  • ricin_beans

    I usually get vanilla ice cream. Not this, though. This isn’t vanilla ice cream. This is more like that ice milk shit they used to sell.

  • Ron Allen

    Uh, maybe it’s not good “metal” because it’s not supposed to be metal.

    It’s hard rock guys, in the classic sense.

    And it’s also a GREAT album!