Zombie Picnic’s debut album ‘A Suburb of Earth’ is nothing if not sonically ambitious. Hybriding influences as diverse as Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, the Limerick four-piece have created a complex musical package. Comprising four instrumental tracks with a total length of about thirty-six minutes, this record challenges the listener to engage fully, and perhaps refrain from carrying out life’s menial tasks with half an attentive ear to the music. In other words, clean the kitchen later!
Are you paying attention? Good. The B141 Frequency begins our odyssey into the ether. A few minutes into the track it becomes clear that there will be a significant variety of themes and motifs developed, rather than using any one template or standard formula. This style is evident throughout the whole record, often modulating between different sounds, tempos and dynamics.
The musicianship of the opening track is solid, and there is some truly inspired guitar work. The same must be said of the rhythm section. However it does sometimes feel like the rest of the record allows itself some filler, perhaps designed to maintain a degree of seamlessness from track to track. There are some sections that are a bit too familiar and repetitive with songs often blurring together between these sections with no real discernible demarcation point.
While this contributes to the overall consistency of the record, the division of each of the four tracks appears to be largely arbitrary, with cuts sometimes feeling more appropriate in the middle of songs rather than at the end of them. It seems that the price to be paid for consistency is repetition.
The Adamite Bomb, as one of the two shorter songs on the record, is still perhaps a couple of minutes too long. The lengthy opening with its monotonous bassline (maybe the only time this description can fairly be used) and voiceover reminiscent of something off ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ could have ended sooner to allow the classic metal-infused riff to come to the fore and shake things up. The opening segment of this track, at over five minutes long, just lacks the dynamic weight that can be found elsewhere on the record. However, the finale is Zombie Picnic at its most powerful both dynamically and musically.
The Cylindrical Sea opens with some slick guitar work, some killer riffs and an ethereal atmospheric quality. The track moves into more ominous territory later before returning to something more laid back. Try to imagine sonic mood swings. But the good kind.
The finale, The Rama Committee, gently moves up the gears until suddenly breaking into another gritty riff. As the song develops, this riff grows more frantic. It is a truly menacing song that quickly moves from grunge-infused rock to something a little more laid back. Zombie Picnic are at their best when exploring these dynamic boundaries.
With careful, attentive listening, this record can be appreciated for its complexity and nuance. The craftsmanship is generally admirable and the musicians are top notch. However, such a degree of scrutiny illuminates smaller issues that are not necessarily detrimental to the quality of the record as a whole, but can occasionally have implications for the individual tracks.