Friday, March 14, 2008

Scapegoat - Zombie Dog CD Review

Those bastards in Scapegoat sure are a bunch of tricky nut jobs. They somehow possess more musical identities that you can count on one confused hand. Going into reviewing this album, by only looking at the cover, I was guessing I was either in for some synth-tinged goth punk or cheesy metalcore. However, I really didn’t get either… or really much of either. Seriously, it’s quite a chore pinning these guys down to a single genre, and pigeonholing this band is simply not something that is going to happen.

Kicking off the album is the ridiculously catchy “Zombies”, which is a killer melodic metalcore-lite song that, even while possessing some slightly tongue-in-cheek lyrics, manages to put a lot of scene bands to shame. Moving on to “The Hurricane”, the band leaves most of the metalcore behind for some hard rockin’ fun (with a few screams tossed in for good measure). There are more than enough places within these two songs where the band could have dropped in a breakdown or three to appease the pit ninjas, but they possess enough restraint to keep from adding in extraneous things that don’t need to be there.

Now just wait until you get to “Criminal”. You’ll be swearing to yourself that you’re actually listening to Anberlin. Kit Walters sounds like he’s Stephen Christian’s long lost vocal twin brother. The song does end on a decidedly dark, growling note that, unfortunately, didn’t need to be there at all, but up until that point it’s pure hard rock bliss. But then the band kicks it into a different gear with a Deftones influenced groove on “Dead in the Nethers”. The song does fall into the sing/scream trap of a lot of modern screamo, but it’s still much better than average.

Believe it or not, the follow up to that crunching song is the undeniably upbeat “The Witness”. Sure it has the occasional scream tossed in, but for the majority of the song Walters is crooning along in a soft, almost half-whispered, tender, melodic tenor. The rest of the band, as aggressive as their playing is, softens the edges to accentuate the melody of the song. So where does the band go next? How about to the bouncy, swaggering “The Room in Which I Sit”. There’s some underlying elements in the songwriting that remind one of a Paramore or a Fall Out Boy mixed in with Dance Gavin Dance. In fact, I might argue that this catchy as crabs song is the strongest on the album. As for the rest of the album, let’s just say they cover some of the previously described musical territory again along with doing some exploring into southern rock influences, pop rock tendencies, and even some turntable spinning.

To have such a diverse album is quite an accomplishment for a band whose average age is only 21 years old, especially in a scene where most bands are more concerned about conformity to a defined mold or emulating their influences instead of trying to branch out and explore new territory. Zombie Dog isn’t creating something brand new, but it does show us a band that’s not afraid to go in whichever direction they damn well please.

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