Zombie Rodeo – Cult Leader (EP)
Fuzz driven Rock group Zombie Rodeo hail from Helsinki, Finland and were formed in 2011. They have released three EPs and Cult Leader is their latest EP and is accompanied by the single Cult Leader (on Spotify). The current line-up is: Thomas Vee (vocals), Miika Partonen (guitar / vocals), Mika Rissanen (guitar), Mikko Puhakka (bass) and Mikko Mustonen (drums)
Dirty, sludgy Rock pounds out of the speakers. Nameless Rider settles down after an introductory solo to bare bones as the verse kicks in, bass grinding along with the drums as Thomas Vee strikes up his vocals. The dense sound when the whole group kick in is what you want to hear and it sounds healthier than their previous EP. It has a Heavy Rock sound that is fairly classic and Zombie Rodeo utilize it well although this is not a song to be surprised by. The song moves along in a reasonably predictable way but there is one slight problem which is the short breakdown that sounds so awkward and breaks up the continuity and flow of the song. Next up is Silver Medicine. This shows promise and maybe their influences for how they sound now – a bit of Iron Maiden and Paradise Lost. This really is quite an ear opener in view of how the EP started. It’s a slow stomping and mournful song and though the two influences mentioned might seem to grate against each other there is actually a well thought out progression here. It is undeniably Heavy Rock but when the chorus hits the feeling that this five-piece have something going on that could push them to higher prominence is unquestionable. OK, so they might be heading towards the radio-friendly side of things from what this song shows but don’t let that put you off. Especially as the next song turns the fuzz and filth up to eleven. Cult Leader shows some of the personality of Silver Medicine but it’s as if Zombie Rodeo decided to remove some of the niceness that pervaded that previous song and opted more for the wall-of-sound approach they went for on the opener. The screaming noise from the guitars is an indicator of an all-out meat-and-bones Heavy Rock tune. This one grinds along and the touches of Paradise Lost style guitar work makes this more Goth Metal but when they double up the tempo the obvious parallels to Black Sabbath can be drawn. All this said and it doesn’t suffer from these touches because they use them in creative ways rather than turning the entire song over to one influence or another. Personal Hell comes off sounding like an anti-climax after that but it does show another side to what the Finnish five-piece can do. It has an ungainly start but does pick up fairly quickly as if Zombie Rodeo have taken charge of an errant beast. This is a slower number and it utilizes the two guitarists (Miika Partonen and Mika Rissanen) to great effect, each of them playing something complimentary while the rhythm section (Mikko Puhakka and Mikko Mustonen) hold it together. Again the shades of Goth Metal make an impact particularly on the chorus and then it turns more towards Metal. This may not be the blatantly stand out track that Cult Leader is, it does show a more creative edge to how this group are writing their music. Finalising this release is Replacement Memories which displays some more of the experimentation Zombie Rodeo are playing with and in the context of their previous EP it is streets ahead. Keeping the pace along the lines of the previous number, this song develops to become a kind of heavy-fied (!) mix of late 60s retro psychedelia with classic 80s Heavy Metal. They don’t sound entirely as they did at the start of this EP as if the first song is where they had been and this last one is where they are headed. The arrangement on this song with its time-change is sharper and belies the willingness to use intelligence instead of reverting to song writing they had previously. It is a brooding and dirt-driven animal which makes its way along a calculated path. They should have named this EP Out of Darkness Into Light for the change they have forged with this release.
Remember that these are all straight forward Heavy Rock songs rather than experimental Tech Death – this group is sounding more and more like some kind of would-be Metal outfit instead of Heavy Rock. Comparing Cult Leader with the previous release there is a definite change overall: the Grunge style Heavy Rock has given way to an interesting mixture of styles and Zombie Rodeo appear to be gaining ground on getting a style which will appeal to a wide range of Heavy Rock and Metal fans. They have to be admired for the fact that they have taken steps to define themselves as something new after one year since the last EP and with a line-up change which has breathed new life into their music. Fans of Zombie Rodeo may be wondering what happened but anyone unfamiliar with the Finnish five-piece should be impressed with the interesting concoction of influences and styles.