You’ll Never Take Us Alive by Zig-Zags
I never really knew what to make of Los Angleless-based power trio Zig-Zags. I’d be lying if I said I took a great deal of time to familiarize myself with their early material, but I was privy enough to it; and honestly didn’t think quite that much of it. But, when their new record “You’ll Never Take Us Alive” was unveiled to be unleashed by the Almighty Riding Easy Recs, whom are not necessarily ones to release dull material if nothing else; it’s safe to say I was intrigued. Then, having seen the retro & chaotic album cover along with the title of their lead single, “Punk Fucking Metal”, that was about enough for me to be as far in as in could possibly be. Let’s fucking go. Notice how it doesn’t take THAT MUCH to get me down with a record. Bottom line: it did not disappoint. On one hand I was surprised because it sounded exactly how I thought it would, just like punk fucking metal. But, on the other hand and even more to my surprise, it was a whole hell of a lot more fucked up than I ever thought it would be… and I liked it. A lot.
It was like being blinded sided with a roaring chainsaw with the immediacy and sheer HEAVINESS of this beast. A heightened sense of danger was the only feeling I could muster up within the first minute, or more realistically, the entire record. Not knowing whether to get up and shake my hips or headbang til my skull rejects my ocular nerves… I reluctantly did neither as I succumbed to Zig-Zags’ hypnotic trance-trance-inducing spell of crossover hardcore/thrash/punk/doom/fusion/killing-machine sounds. As the record kept spinning and the pavement -upheaving speed continued to increase; I was only just beginning to steep my brain matter into what kind of record I was truly in for. By the time the chorus of the third track, “Fallout”, carves its way through the speakers with: “Now get down / Your ears start to bleed / Hills have eyes/ And the saw is family / When there’s no more room in hell dead will walk the earth … “ I was psychotically grinning ear to ear, drooling blood, and exclaiming “MUSIC IS MY LIFE” like my friend Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Typical. More importantly though, I “got” what Zag-Zags were doing; and I dig it because it’s exactly what I would do which is exactly what I like my kind of music to do… fuck with everyone. Zig-Zags have pulled the good ‘ol wolf in sheep’s clothing trick that would leave Ted Bundy massaging his prison beard in solemn approval. Their ambiguous name, album cover, song titles, and even the overall vibes of the songs themselves prove to be quite fun, while underneath it all is ultimately pure horror and violence. Please do not take that as a complaint. Quite the opposite, rather. The lyrical content overflows with vivid scenes of horror including, but not limited to; post apocalyptic undead, raining blood, low-key satanic forest rituals, murder, knives, and exorcisms. Now “You’ll Never Take Us Alive” makes a lot more sense.
The mission of capturing the sound of “punk fucking metal” should not be mistaken for being as simple as it sounds, surprisingly. Yes, there are plenty (read: too many) “punk bands with a metal edge” and vice-versa. That along with the seemingly infinite and regurgitated list of subgeneres seems to be rendering classifying music almost obsolete at this point. My old- school-metal-loving-ass would call it THRASH… but what do I know? Zig-Zags have truly achieved a rather stellar balance and ever-developing, rich blend of all kinds of punk and a whole lotta metal. More importantly than the sound the have built for themselves, they use it to their advantage offering an eclectic range of such - thankfully, not all songs sound alike here (which is a criticism I’ve had of their early work and I didn’t want to get into this but I’m assuming the shift in sound is due to lineup changes and new production but yeah again what do I know fuck it thanks bye). For instance, “Killer of Killers” fittingly enough sounds like it could creep its way into “Kill ‘Em All” ’s track list and live there with absolutely no issue. Whereas tracks like the title track, “They’ll Never Take Us Alive” absolutely echo the Ramones with a hint of Pantera. And careful not to overlook the closing track, “God Sized” who’s stomping doom rock spirit could belong to Rob Zombie. Most all tracks are rooted in a typical west coast 80’s hardcore/thrash crossover influence, and it is some of the best from that vein we’ve heard in a WHILE. The variety of chaotic sound on this record becomes more and more infectious with each listen, guaranteed to notice nuances you didn’t the first ten spins.
The guitar has a quite unforgiving bite to it, but at the same time is the driving force and essential groove of the record. Apologizing in advance for yet another name drop, but it IS very “Raw Power” in its carless, ruthless, and powerful tone… and not a single bar of this is played clean or lightly. This is undeniably heavy music, not by death metal standards by certainly the heaviest Zig-Zags have ever done, but the groove is never lost. Jed Mehu (guitar/vocals) treats his tunes with the utmost respect, distortion, and feedback-rich riffs of crushing glory. The vocal duties range from purely unapologetic 80’s trash to off-color alien intruder with some help from even more off-color film samples. And we canNOT leave here without talking about the bass, that thankfully have stuck to their Cliff Burton inspired roots, and I think that’s all I have to say on that subject. The aforementioned recipe that creates this fired up heavy metal punk rock energy creates the best contrast with the passionately delivered deranged lyrcism. The contrast could not work more perfectly, almost reminding me of the Misfits before I remind myself NOT to name drop again.. shit. Seriously though, not to discredit any of what Zig-Zags created on their record as it is abundantly original, and simply killer. It is beyond impressive the range of sounds created by only 3 dudes responsible for rocking, but that speaks to levels of musicianship (or alien blood and ancient rituals) within the band. From doomy & grinding, epic-almost-power-metal to high velocity shredding & punk-filled energy, ZIg Zags exhibit pure fucking awesomeness on this beautifully produced record. I use beautiful pretty loosely, by the way. Although the mixing and the production does lend itself very nicely to the Zig-Zags ridiculous tunes, thanks to Riding Easy for never letting us down… probably because we’re too high while listening to Riding Easy’s releases to be let down. What?
Oh yeah, speaking of getting high, did I mention that this album is a ton of FUN? Like, maybe not the fun you bring the family to for early onset diabetes treats and balloons, although maybe it is. But, I’m what I’m REALLY talkin’ ‘bout fun in the sense of music not taking itself too seriously, although it is written and performed very seriously. THAT is the kind of shit I dig. And you should too. In this seemingly increasing chaotic real life world (maybe depicted on this very record’s cover), I think it is important that music provides a solitary escape from that, preferably depicted with heavy metal edges and punk spirits singing praises of classic horror films, alien invasion, and rebellion. But that’s also just me. You do what the fuck you want. Just like the Zig-Zags do. I can only hope that judging by how well this record is written and how self-aware they seem to be, that “You’ll Never Take Us Alive” is designed to be a giant middle finger in the face to this current day and age. To take the focus away form the state of the music industry that is obsessed with over-classification and image, and focus on what really matters here, as we know… the music. And of course classic horror & post apocalyptic hordes of undead. Either way, the message encrypted from our extraterrestrial elders, the Zig-Zags has been decoded: Just have some fucking fun and rock & roll. Thanks boys.
Gym Rating: 5/5 (HIGH ENERGY)
Check em out!!