“Źenit” is a fantastic look into the 4 unique personalities and styles in ŹOOĻ, exploring those through a set of stylish songs.
Title: Źenit Release date: 14/12/2022 Label: Lantis Genre: Rock/Hip-Hop/Nu-disco/Funk-disco
1 - BLACK TlGER 2 - Insomnia 3 - SUNRIZE 4 - RIDING
Track by track analysis:
1 – BLACK TlGER
Muffled, dirty guitar riffs open the curtains to “BLACK TIGER”. And how heavy is the sound in this tune? The guitars are low, the bassline is explosive and the drums are relentless and heavy-hitting throughout.
The verses, however, bring synths into the mix, creating a disruptive sound that perfectly marries both sides of ZOOL’s sound – the aggressive and intense debut sound and the recent, EDM-heavy sound.
The chorus goes loud and fast with the drums going crazy on the bass drum while the synths take over and add a slightly playful twist to the instrumental.
On the vocal end, it is nice to have everyone going for clean singing instead of bringing a mix of clean singing and rapping. It’s in moments like this that you notice just how much talent this group has on the vocal end
The bridge is as heavy as you can get with Touma (CV: Subaru Kimura) leading the way in the verses. Then you will find a beautiful contrast of the delicate, almost dreamy second part that brings Haruka (CV: Yuya Hirose) to the spotlight.
Hirose takes over and is actually in charge of adding beauty to the performance however not disregard that he needs to build up tension for the last chorus.
And he does so flawlessly to the point that you barely notice the shift in tone in the instrumental from delicate to intense yet again.
2 – Insomnia
Synth stabs, dreamy atmospheric synths, and a shuffle beat welcome you to “Insomnia”, song that is a first for ZOOL.
The group embraces nu-disco, R&B, and hip-hop to create one of the most addictive tunes in their repertoire so far. The verses are loungy and overflowing with good vibes at the same time that they have an alluring edge to them.
As the tension builds up, you’re taken by the hand to the chorus, and let me tell you: this is a chorus you don’t want to see or hear end. It creates a warm and intimate soundscape for you to lose yourself. At the same time, it is insanely danceable due to its shuffling beat with dashes of hip-hop in there.
Synths are used sparingly, brass stabs appear to add another layer of allure to this soundscape. As the chorus wraps up, the cycle repeats and you want more and more.
For the second verse, the pace has picked up and all elements are in play, creating a dreamy and stylish nu-disco tune that is incredibly groovy (and addictive on the vocal end).
When it comes to the vocals, ZOOL knows how to impress, kicking off the song with ad-libs by Yuya Hirose, then carrying over to the verses in which everyone embraces a fancy mix of rapping and R&B singing that is as catchy as it is new for the group. In this song, Koutaro Nishiyama takes the spotlight and impresses with his breathy performance.
“Insomnia” stands tall as the best song in this concept mini-album, showing a unique and stylish side to ZOOL without straying away from their identity as a group.
3 – SUNRIZE
Gated guitar riffs kick down the doors to “SUNRIZE”, song that is all about its heavy rock sound.
The verses have a dirty edge to them in which glitchy synths, guitar riffs, drums, and bass can go as low and heavy as they want, however… The chorus will surprise you, especially if you are expecting more of that dirty and dark rock sound in the verses.
When the chorus arrives, it’s as if light started to hit the stage, overcoming darkness. It is bright and upbeat. The changes can be felt in how the instrumental has almost all instruments in legato in the chorus + clean vocals VS the instruments playing in a sort of a staccato fashion + muffled vocals in the verses.
When it comes to the rock sides of the instrumental, this song knows how to deliver. The chorus in the bridge is heavy, aggressive and quite emotional, going on for quite some time to carry over and deal with all that tension nicely to the last chorus.
Yet, you have more awesome guitar work in the outro, leading up to the break out from that dark place (the glass breaking in the background as the song wraps up).
4 – RIDING
Wrapping up this mini-album is “RIDING”, song that brings funky guitar riffs. with those looping throughout the song as other elements join in.
The playful tone in the verses is something that instantly grabbed my attention as that is unusual for the group. Then, the rhodes piano slowly and dreamily made its entrance, further grabbing my attention. As the song builds up to the chorus, you have a glimpse of EDM, with washy synths smoothly taking you to a chorus that will leave you with a mouth ajar – especially if you are the type of person that appreciates music throwbacks well done and awesome vocals.
The chorus in “RIDING” is a full-on funk-disco paradise. The bassline is punchy, the beat is groovy, the guitars are funky, the strings stabs bring a lot of style to this performance and then the retro synths add the cherry on top as Subaru Kimura, Yuya Hirose, Koutaro Nishiyama, and Takashi Kondo performance in unison, harmonizing with each other and adding some canons in there.
It is an understatement to say that I am impressed with this song. Really. This is such a great – and technical – performance by the group in a music genre they had never tried before yet, they absolutely nailed the performance and left me wanting more.
Groovy and stylish, “RIDING” is one of the highlights of this mini-album.
ZOOL explores the different sides of itself and its members by releasing the concept mini-album “Zenit”.
In a way, you have the personalities of all 4 members represented by each of the songs in this CD. This may have not been the intention but given how lines were distributed, which focus voice was chosen for each performance and the whole style of the instrumentals gives off that idea.
“BLACK TIGER” represents the intensity and aggression, but also the passion, of, quite possibly Touma (CV: Subaru Kimura). This is a song that goes loud and hard on rock music, bringing back a bit of the essence from ZOOL’s debut sound yet, giving it a mature coating that makes it so, that this song fits and feels right at this moment for the group.
“Insomnia” is dreamy, delicate, and beautiful with a dash of allure on top, representing Minami (CV: Koutaro Nishiyama). The nu-disco meets hip-hop and R&B fits ZOOL so, so good. On the vocal end they have all the tools and versatility to nail a performance as complex and technical as this one – and, truth is, they did it.
This is a song I have had on repeat since I reviewed it due to how loungy and overflowing of good vibes it is.
“SUNRIZE” is intense, dark, and unapproachable yet full of hope and light as the mask falls off. In a way, given how the focus on the vocals was on putting Takashi Kondo as the center (as Torao), this is a Torao style of song. This is a song that may put some listeners on the fence as it is quite polarizing in its sound. Heavy rock VS bubbly pop-rock. It took me a couple of listens before the song started to sound good to me so, I’d suggest listening to this one more than once.
And “RIDING” is a funky tune with a retro disco vibe that will easily stand out in this mini-album. And yes, it brings forth an intensity and passion that seemed like it was hidden well within ZOOL yet it sounds so natural for the group. It, in a way, represents Haruka (CV: Yuya Hirose).
“RIDING” was an absolute surprise in terms of its instrumental, embracing a music genre in which Re:vale and TRIGGER have recently been really big on funk-disco.
And yes, it does suit ZOOL a whole lot however this is a massive detour from their trademark sound, completely ditching their aggressive mix of rock and hip-hop in favor of a groovy, dancefloor-ready tune with a retro vibe.
When ZOOL’s “Zenit” wraps up, you’ve fully grasped the 4 unique personalities and passions within the group and got a taste of what ZOOL can do in the future – should the group venture to new territory musically.
“Zénit” is one of the best albums of 2022 and easily ZOOL’s best CD released to date.
“Źenit” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
“Źenit” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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