I’ve been thinking for a couple years now that we are going to start seeing a whole new breed of progressive artists. Most people expect progressive bands to have some sort of connection to 70’s prog, and they may indeed have that. However, many new bands have more connection to contemporary artists, like alternative rock or other genres. I’ve been specifically expecting to see Hans Zimmer pop up as a major influence. With the new wave of prog that seems so deeply interested in electronic and cinematic music, I am indeed starting to see his name appear in various places. Zoungla is one of those artists, and his new album “Family” released at the end of March. It is truly a familiar but also completely fresh album.
Zoungla hails from Montreal, though I assume he’s Greek because his name is Costa Damoulianos. Costa plays or programs all the instruments on this album, although keyboardist Alex Lagogianis lends a hand on one track. Costa also performs all the vocals on this album, and those vary between background harmonization to lead melodies. Costa is a very prolific artist, and his work shows that.
An artist is not defined by their influences, and so I somewhat regret discussing Hans Zimmer in the paragraph above. However, the musical style of Zoungla is deeply cinematic and sounds like a soundtrack at times on certain tracks. It also has elements of progressive metal and Floydian or psychedelic progressive rock, but the total package comes off as playful, sensitive, and eccentric. There is also a big element of world music here, played out with guitars and keys rather than with ethnically-specific instruments.
The lyrics on the album are somewhat fresh for the genre. They feel full of familiar and beautiful feelings of love and, well, family. It’s all about experiencing life and facing the world together. You don’t often see lyrics like this in the prog community; usually it’s all social commentary and biting rhetoric (which I love), but this album itself ends up feeling like a breath of fresh air.
There is quite a bit of variety on this album. Some songs are bright and nostalgic at points, and others are dark and atmospheric. The dark moments are never melancholy or scary, though, but only serve as transitions to warmth and familial feelings. You will notice that Costa uses the sounds of running water and birds, among other things, to add heart and soul to many songs, too. You will often feel like you are really there experiencing the music in nature itself. Despite how amazing the music is, Costa’s vocals are pure and sincere, too, and the vocal lines are composed to perfection.
My favorites are hard to choose. I think I like “The Big One”, “Do You Remember?”, “Rebuild”, and “The Faithful Companion” best. “The Big One” starts the album with gusto and metal riffing, but transitions into cinematic movement, electronic shades, and bassy pulses. “Do You Remember?” has such a wonderful progression to it, but the chorus is literally spine-tinglingly good. “Rebuild” is serene and melodic and natural, but with a synthy atmosphere. I just feel at peace hearing it. “The Faithful Companion” is a nostalgic song full of love and heart, and it employs a folksier sound with lots of acoustic guitar. It ends the album perfectly and abstractly.
Zoungla has a winner with “Family”. It is ambitious and cinematic, with lots of variety and beautifully written melodies. Every single song fits into the total puzzle perfectly, and the flow is exceedingly masterful. I love this album.
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