Sometimes, I’m not quite sure what to expect from an album. Sometimes it’s the album cover, and other times it can even be the band’s name. Zombie Picnic is a little bit of both. Their new album “Rise of a New Ideology” releases on the 9th of March, and I see quite a bit of potential in their sound.
Zombie Picnic hails from Ireland. The band consists of Brian Fitzgerald on bass, James Griffin and Dave Tobin on guitars, and Brendan Miller on drums. This group honestly doesn’t sound anything like what you might expect from a picnic with zombies, and even the cover is a bit of an enigma in relation to the music.
Their musical style is instrumental and somewhat mixed in genre. The album features electronic and ambient portions, mainly in the first and last tracks, and then the middle tracks tend to be more straightforward progressive rock and post rock with what I consider a classic rock vibe on the guitars. Their blaring bass gives a bit of a math feel to it, but the complexity is definitely lower than that.
The album itself has a pace that is quite pensive, and there are lots of voice overs speaking of various political or social issues, mainly global warming and that sort of thing. Now, these voice overs, while welcome and guiding in purpose, don’t exactly mesh with the music all the time. You wouldn’t listen to some of the songs and think, “This song is about the tendency of society to ignore or mock science as dangerous or foolish”. The music is more straightforward than that, and it is rarely emotional enough to convey the feelings of the political stance of the album.
Performance-wise, the album is great. While I’m not always a fan of the steely guitar tone, James and Dave still play with gusto and soul, and the phrasing is impressive. Brian’s bass here is definitely a highlight with its rumbling, meaty tone; but also because it provides a large portion of the actual tune instead of being background tone only. Brendan’s drums are an important part of the sound, too, being energetic with great fills.
For an album that is so political, I feel the need to comment. The album seems to think that scientists are treated as heretics and iconoclasts, and there is definitely some of that in the world today. But there are also those that worship scientists as if they are the beacon of all modern truth. I feel that perhaps if we were to present real scientists instead of hacks like Neil Degrasse Tyson or non-scientists like Bill Nye, we might actually get somewhere. Instead, we are running in place because money and propaganda and fudged facts are the name of the game. So, in some sense I agree with the album, but I also feel like it is only presenting one side of the problem.
The first and last tracks are the strongest, both in message and music. I feel like the middle four tracks on the album get a little lost in purpose, while still being good rock songs. They are, however, nothing more than that. This album gives promise of potential for this band, but I feel like going a little further outside the box would definitely help them stand out and make waves. Many of their ideas are really interesting, but I feel like these ideas only appear in limited form.
“Democracy Cannot Survive” is the best song on the album: Its introspective word of caution is felt both in the voice overs and in the soulful music, and may be the one song where the voice overs match the music, though that could have more to do with the sound effects of rain and thunder than the music itself. “They See Science as Dangerous” is a good rocking track with lots of bass and energy, and “Anger in Storage (Denial Will Follow)” is a strong finisher for the album that does make me think. I love the fragile ending.
Overall, Zombie Picnic have a solid album in “Rise of a New Ideology”. I feel like meshing the music with the message could have elevated this album even more, and I feel the band could explore their more eccentric side further in order to stand out as a band. If you love post rock, you will like this, and if you want some good solid rocking tracks, this will be right up your alley. If you are looking for a total package that will leave you trembling, this is one step in that direction, but not quite there.