There is so much to love about the five-track release, it’s difficult to know where to begin. The first two songs are very reminiscent of A Perfect Circle, which isn’t to say that they are direct copies, but more-so that they combine the same mixture of melodic vocals over bass-heavy music. It is refreshing to hear such a well polished release that doesn’t mix out the bass, but rather uses it to drive the songs.
The EP opens with Deviate, a track that perfectly introduces the band to listeners, capitalising on vocalist Ryan Lucivero’s unique voice. Zen Stella’s style may not be new, but they pull it off better than most. While it is evident throughout the EP that all members of the band are extremely talented, none distract from the others, and in fact the balance of sounds is perfectly achieved and consistent. Stand out track In Limbo has all the qualities you could want from a song. While not a heavy track, there is enough oomph to push it from being your average alt-rock song, to being one you’ll go back to listen to over and over. The vocal harmonies compliment the ‘heaviness’ in a way that they shouldn’t. There are some bands, such as Tool and Opeth, who can pull things off that shouldn’t work. While it would be premature to lump Zen Stella in with these acts so early in their career, it’s promising to listen to tracks like In Limbo and be able to instantly recognise the same uniqueness that makes such bands so interesting.
Part two of the EP is equally as enjoyable, but for different reasons. The songs take on a more progressive approach which fluctuates between highlighting Lucivero’s vocal talents and focusing on showing off what guitarists Seb Hudson and Cameron Kittel are capable of. Wrapping up the EP is Souvenir a song that fuses sounds that would not be out of place in a jazz piece, with heavy vocals and a true rock’n’roll sound. In six minutes, we are taken through a rollercoaster of a song, concluding a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
No expense has been spared in the making of this EP. Mastered by Leon Zervos (Muse, Dream Theater, Santana) the quality is very refreshing, and so wonderful to hear on a local release. Zen Stella are a truly unique band, standing out in the prog-rock scene Australia has for so long been so successful in. There is no reason their debut EP should not propel them to the top of people’s ‘must see’ lists, and attract a lot of much-deserved attention.
Review by Sofie Marsden