Review: “A New Tomorrow” by Zulu

“While our past material was a more direct approach and very in your face about the treatment of black individual’s around the world, I wanted to step away and express the love and beauty of us. That through all the hard things we go through, that’s not just what we are and it doesn’t define us. Our culture is so rich and vast, and I couldn’t even begin to explain all of that. But some of the topics that make this record include unity and love in the community and hope for ourselves.” ~Anaiah Lei

Originally formed as a solo project by vocalist Anaiah Lei in 2018 before being joined by guitarist Braxton Marcellous, Zulu are a band who have been busy building their name by pushing the boundaries of Hardcore and Powerviolence. Rounded out by guitarist Dez Yusuf, bassist Satchel Brown and drummer Christine Cadette the quintet hail from Los Angeles California and have already put the spotlight on themselves with 2019 EP “Our Day Will Come” which was followed up in 2020 by “My People… Hold On“. This time out they took on the task of self-producing the record, immersing themselves in collaborator Zach Tuch’s (Dare, Trash Talk) studio in the valley to toy with different instrumentation, samples while pulling from influences ranging from Reggae to Death Metal…

…and the end result is something of a more eclectic and eccentric mix than perhaps you might expect, knitted together with lyrics that are both personal yet vast and filled with thoughts of perseverance and recognition. Despite running to no less than fifteen cuts, each one is as short as it is barbed as the band ditch traditional song structures in favour of bursts of brutal Metallic Hardcore infused Death Metal with verses of larynx threatening vocals interspersed with melody from samples. If we were going to sum up the album in a single sentence, it would be to say that its violently turbulent to the point of being hilarious good fun… we kid you not, you may never have heard anything quite like this. Opening piece “Africa” is a bright and elegant piano and orchestral moment that comically acts as a palate cleanser before snapping back into the Death Metal tinged Metallic Hardcore riffs of “For Sista Humphrey” in bludgeoning fashion. It’s like you’ve gone from viewing space the scenery with a cup of Earl Grey to being hit full in the face by a mask wearing, axe wielding maniac before it drops back to some 70’s Motown sample for a moment and then goes again, full throttle into the savage “Our Day Is Now” with earth shattering intensity and blast beats. The first three cuts are over in just over four minutes.

When they’re at their heaviest they’re like a toxic blend of Harms Way and Jesus Piece with hints at Grindcore and Powerviolence as the poison chalice of inspiration overflows and leaves you wondering how they’re going to carry off some of this stuff live without a turntable guru of some kind. One of the heavier cuts is “Where I’m From” which finds Anaiah Lei going toe to toe with both Pierce Jordan of Soul Glo and Obioma Ugonna of Playytime, the caustic vocal tones of all three intertwining to full effect, running around the brain like a bullet ricochet. It’s a masterclass of the Powerviolence genre that pioneers and influencers in  Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Full Of Hell would be proud, punching above its weight with its sheer pace an energy. “Fakin’ Tha Funk (You Get Did)” continues that flow and offers something in the vein of fresher work from bands like Knocked Loose with an instant gratification level and downtempo appeal in the back end. In order to give you a break the band give us three minutes of melody in the funky porn movie soundscape of “Shine Eternally“, a laid back number that you can sit back and relax to before the next neck snapping jolt. “Lyfe Az A Shorty Shun B So Ruff” and “From Tha Gods To Earth” reach the same intensity levels as The Acacia Strain and it wouldn’t surprise if Vincent Bennett got Anaiah Lei to guest on a track and/or took Zulu on tour because their is a shared world view here that underlies it all.

Créme de Cassis” By Alesia Miller & Precious Tucker is an intriguing poem accompanied by piano that is both elegant and graceful in its depiction of the pain that other cultures have suffered before hip-hop cut “We’re More Than This” confirms that no stone is left unturned in the search for art and self expression in music that Zulu pursue. On an album of this nature, nothing sounds out of place and the experimentation with no borders or boundaries makes for a thrill ride that everyone can enjoy. The only question is how they maintain the levels over a career without simplifying through fatigue. From there comes the inevitable sucker punch of “52 Fatal Strikes” which finds the band joined by Paris Roberts of Truth Cult for 102 seconds of brutal Hardcore that captures the bands renowned live energy like lightening in a bottle. As the title suggests, when this one plays out in the live arena it’s going to be like doing a round with Bruce Lee in his prime when entering the mosh pit. “Divine Intervention” follows that through with some two step worthy riff battery, the largely instrumental cut a perfectly weighted sonic abrasion but if you’d thought you’d heard it all by this point, “Who Jah Bless No One Curse” closes the book with some Deftones inspired Post-Hardcore moments that blow the mind. If you want to here something so original its ahead of its time, then go check this one out [9/10]

Track Listing

1. Africa
2. For Sista Humphrey
3. Our Day Is Now
4. Music To Driveby
5. Where I’m From (Ft. Pierce Jordan of Soul Glo & Obioma Ugonna of Playytime)
6. Fakin’ Tha Funk (You Get Did)
7. Shine Eternally
8. Must I Only Share My Pain
9. Lyfe Az A Shorty Shun B So Ruff
10. From Tha Gods To Earth
11. Créme de Cassis By Alesia Miller & Precious Tucker
12. We’re More Than This
13. 52 Fatal Strikes (Ft. Paris Roberts of Truth Cult)
14. Divine Intervention
15. Who Jah Bless No One Curse

A New Tomorrow” by Zulu is out 3rd March 2023 via Flatspot Records and is available over at bandcamp.

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