Zygon – Signs And Symbols – Album Review
I think the only thing Zygon & I really disagree on are the fundamentals of math…other than that, we’re cool. If you read the review I did on their record Earth And Sky earlier this year, believe it or not, I ran into nearly the exact same thing last time around…a seven is a seven, and an eight is an eight…somehow I keep getting informed we’re checking out seven tunes & yet each time I had listened to both albums, I’ve been hearing eight, aren’t you? So that’s weird. Anyhow…we’ll let Zygons be Zygons…for now…
While I try to keep my expectations & wildest hopes in-check, as to not apply some sort of ridiculous pressure on anyone out there in the scene – I’d be lyin’ to ya by omission if I didn’t say that when it comes to Zygon, I am pretty much expecting nothing but the very best. That’s the savage impression they made through their debut record – and hearing them EXPLODE into “Occam’s Razor” at the outset of their new album Signs And Symbols was like listening to the instant confirmation of every claim I’ve made about’em in the past, & the ones that I’ll make today as well – Zygon IS one of the best out there. You get the vicious & menacing rumble of the bass…a sprinkle of keys & cymbals in the atmosphere – and only mere moments later, the heavy thump of the kick drum, and completely killer guitars coming in – you hear the momentum ramp up…quick break – then BOOM, they’re off & running at full speed and crushin’ it from the lefts to the rights with extreme entertainment. Listening to the way they spring off the beat and start sending the guitar tones into the stratosphere is spectacular…the dynamics they pound into their material & production are second to none – Zygon has IDEAS and they ain’t afraid to use’em. With the skillset they have between their four players, I can’t say I blame’em – they continually prove throughout this one experience that they’ve got the chops to hang with the very best of the best. From seething Tool-esque guitar riffs, to pure explosions of riotous instrumental Progressive Alt-Rock sound – “Occam’s Razor” reveals how this band is holding nothing back when it comes time to press record and the extraordinary results they’re capable of. In my own not-so-humble opinion, there’s not a doubt in my mind that they’re one of the most incredible bands I’ve heard from any corner of the scene in 2021, if not the past freakin’ decade to boot. Hit play “Occam’s Razor,” and you’ll know why that is.
LISTEN to the brilliantly dank-ass rhythm & groove they’ve got goin’ on as they rip into “Sear” will ya? Zygon is out to tear us all the proverbial ‘new one’ if you catch my drift – this four piece is an absolutely undeniable juggernaut, capable of producing ENORMOUS sound that could knock you back a full three feet from where you stand, or six feet straight underground if you’re not careful! “Sear” is a master-class of how to pack in serious hooks through instrumental music – I mean, if you even think vocals could be as entertaining as this is…I don’t know what to tell ya other than you’re wrong – you might not end up singing along, I get that…but let’s be real here too – it doesn’t get more interesting in sound than what Zygon is creating with their music. “Sear” starts HUGE and somehow becomes MORE EPIC as it plays on…it’s as astounding as it is glorious to experience, I ain’t even kidding. It is ALL-CAPS TIME folks, because yep – I’m that excited about Zygon’s music yet again…it would have been tough to conceive just how much they could have evolved in between a debut record earlier this year and now, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding folks. They play such an involved and intricate style of music that takes a truly superhuman level of talent to pull off…and to hear them reach the heights they do on “Sear” at the peak of intensity is nothing short of discovering pure sonic GOLD – this is a SINGLE-WORTHY cut in every possible definition you could conceive. What’s not to love here? The guitars are amazing – the bass & low-end in this tune is jaw-dropping – the drums are as inventive & brilliantly timed as could be – the synths adding to the atmosphere are essential…I mean, it’s just a continual smorgasbord of all-things awesome and there’s no other conclusion that could possibly be heard, is there? Like…I ain’t gonna lie to ya…when I pushed play on Signs And Symbols and I heard “Occam’s Razor” for the first time, I actually did think to myself for a moment that Zygon might have gone and given us the best cut they’d have on this record right at the beginning – and “Sear” instantly confirmed they’ve got so much more in the tank. Buckle-up hombres…Zygon is still just cracking the seal on the amount of nuclear fusion they truly possess.
The energy and intensity NEVER RELENTS, and it’s AWESOME. “Paradigm Shift” is another incredibly fiery & inspired cut in the first half of the set – the guitar solos & instrumentation from Jasmin Misic is freakin’ fantastic here…mind you, they ALL are at ALL times…but between the guitar and the gripping way that drummer Vlad Leskovsky thunders out massive beats & fills from the kit, they definitely did their level best to steal the show on this third cut. Stellar intro, clever breakdown, and once again, Zygon is off and running like musical madmen that have a limitless well of energy & ideas they can draw from at any time they like. Through the many twists & turns they take, the accessibility remains – yes it hits HARD, but make no mistake – so many more people out there would love what they do than you might assume; when music is as well-played and executed as cunningly as this is, the lines blur, and bands like Zygon cross over into uncharted waters, pulling in an audience amalgamated from all over the place, filled with people that’ll say things like – “you know, I never knew I could like instrumental music as much as I like these guys.” They’re professionals to the nth degree, and they PLAY like it – you can hear how steady & fluid they are – and to hear the composition at its roots…I mean…knowing exactly what a song like “Paradigm Shift” would take to go from concept to the final recording…it’s mind-blowing. I do not profess to know the methods to their madness, but I know I love the results. Signs And Symbols plays a lot like a story told in four chapters…these three cuts at the beginning belong together, the next two feel like another set, and the two after that as well, before the final epilogue at the very end…and while they all supply different ideas & unique vibes – the cohesiveness & consistency in what they’ve achieved throughout this set-list of eight songs, is as endlessly impressive as their debut was just a short time ago. Band-wise, they’re arguably even tighter now than they were before, perhaps by the slightest of margins…make no mistake – Zygon is a force to be reckoned with in every aspect – they were at the start, and they continue to prove they’re gonna make their mark in music, permanent.
By the time you get to the spacious opening of “Radiate” and its synth-sounds pulsating away as it starts – you appreciate the slick & sly bass-lines of Paul Stewart and the steady, slow build of a song allowing not only us to catch our breath, but them as well! Because let’s be real here…one more hot & heavy tune in a row might have actually started to melt their amplifiers and short-circuit the studio wiring; they slow it down a little here, if only to let the air conditioning over there reach them for a moment or two. You can tell a band like this can’t sit still for long, so don’t go expecting you can just put your feet up & relax for the rest of the record, but you can take a minute or two to mellow out with Zygon a little through the course of this nearly seven-minute track. “Radiate” digs into Post-Rock vibes a bit more intentionally here, letting those notes soar out into the distance of the atmosphere before Zygon starts to rev up the machine once again with more Progressive tendencies. There’s a stellar focus on melody when it comes to this cut…and you’ll hear how they all contribute to that process from the drums on-up, guitars, bass, synth & keys & whatnot…everyone’s so remarkably focused, professional, and mercilessly on-point that they transition with brilliant fluidity, fully unified at all times. “Radiate” gives Zygon a bit of an advantage of having a few more tangible hooks that the masses could latch onto – but case in-point to what I referred to earlier – listen to the strengths of the main guitar hooks in what you’d call the chorus of this track, and tell me that you don’t feel your SOUL singin’ along! You dig what I’m layin’ out here folks? They might not use words – because they don’t NEED’em…you FEEL this music…and when that part comes around like it will several times throughout “Radiate” and they drift into a Mogwai-esque dose of melodic-Rock majesty…I mean…you really can’t help but to listen & marvel at just how compelling Zygon can become – this is powerful music that has no problem at all in speaking for itself. So remarkably diverse, versatile, involved, and interesting that you don’t have a remote chance of being bored for a solitary second – these players deserve a massive amount of credit for the effort they put in. Of all the hooks you’ll find on this record, there’s a solid chance this cut has the one that’ll make the biggest impact on the people out there in that unforgettable sense of its definition – I still think “Sear” is probably my choice as the album’s most single-worthy track, but “Radiate” might just have what many of you will consider to be one of the most undeniably memorable highlights within this lineup as well.
Loving the keys that start out “The Better Angels” – Henryk Lisowski’s an essential contributor to the success of these songs and how perfectly full to the brim they are with sound, even at its most sparse or atmospheric like you’ll hear through the beginning of this tune. Chances are, the three out of four players in this band that are rockin’ with the synth at times – Henryk, Paul, and Jasmin – they’re just gonna have to share that synth credit when it comes to our listening ears out here. It’d be impossible to know without watchin’em play live who exactly is doin’ what, or without the ultra-detailed liner-notes from back in the day – but I’m all for that – music shouldn’t really be about credits & all that stuff anyway…the best tunes out there come from unified sources with a shared vision. “The Better Angels” is quite likely to become an unsung hero on this record…it’s definitely by far one of the most unexpected & surprising that you’ll find in the lineup. You see folks…the thing is…Zygon has pretty much given us all a form of musical PTSD at this point…and after taking what’s arguably a more mellow moment on “Radiate” beforehand, though no less involved or intricate in design than the rest mind you, we still expect that the next detonation of their atomic energy is somehow coming right around the corner. And so we’re TENSE on that first listen through “The Better Angels” because we assume that’s gotta be happening again, and soon too, right? If they took a bit of a breather on “Radiate” by comparison to the riotous energy of the first three songs, then surely “The Better Angels” wouldn’t go further into the chill zone, would it? And yet here we are, and that’s exactly the case – which again, is surprising. Not in a bad way whatsoever, just an unexpected one is all – “The Better Angels” never starts to thrash or kick, it never gets rowdy at all – it stays beautifully serene and hauntingly melodic as it displays its stoic vibes, brightening up just by a degree or two as it finishes off to give this song a stunningly subtle conclusion. While it is fair to say that this is one of the most decisively different tracks on Signs And Symbols in the context of the set-list overall and it’s more laidback energy – it’s got extraordinary textures and tones that generously mesmerize & hypnotize us in a way that gets to the heart of what captivating sound IS. Zygon proves they don’t have to be explosive to achieve that level of fascination with their music and can dole out a slow jam just as proficiently, precisely, passionately, and professionally as the hard stuff.
The sounds of rioting goin’ on at the start of “Anomie” and its creeping mysterious sound seeping in as it starts is as haunting as it is straight-up interesting to listen to…the kind of beginning that has you instantly feeling like you need to know where this story is gonna go & how it’s gonna end. The kick-in to the main groove instantly delivers that hit of tight, unified musicianship…and the production on this cut is absolutely, 100% outstanding and completely award-worthy. Listen to the punch in Paul’s bass-lines! Listen to the sprawling guitar solos that’ll soar along the surface! Listen to the clarity in the drums & cymbals from the lefts to the rights! Listen to the atmosphere of the keys keep the background steady! Essentially, you name it, and you can HEAR IT – and that’s the point; so many bands out there with the sheer amount of complexities and intricacies of a band like Zygon would get this all wrong where they’re getting it entirely right – the production plays a massive role in the end results, make no mistake. Mixing this band would be one monumental task without a doubt – though you can hear through their instrumentation & the way they play that they’d at least make THAT part easy on the studio crew, the whole twisting of dials & turning knobs on the boards would be a whole different beast altogether. From the lurk of the mayhem on display through the samples at the very start, to the way they shift their way so expertly through an other-worldly vibe that grows forevermore deadly – “Anomie” is another cut that would make a great candidate for a single, perhaps this time around with the right visuals to accompany it. They’ve got every excuse to head straight into the dark with a video here and create a devilish delight that could be fearless & edgy & outright shocking if they wanted to…and I know I’d recommend it. That being said, the imagery they’ll conjure up in your mind with their music is likely nightmarish enough to keep ya busy in the meantime…and beyond that, you’ll find a behemoth dose of accessible sound spread out through the distance of “Anomie” to be found as well. What time it doesn’t spend on haunting our bones, it will deliver on gripping Alt-Progressive sound that is boldly innovative.
As seamlessly as they’ve transitioned from track to track throughout the flawlessly fluid flow of their new record, Zygon slides right into the synth-driven “Solo Flight” – and as the guitars, bass, and drums take their place in a support role, you get exactly what the title implies on the surface of this cut. That is, until you hit the mayhem-laden vibes to follow the “Solo Flight” – but you get what I mean…as this track begins, you’ll recognize the role the synth plays in getting this mother movin.’ You’ll get more to follow later on down the road too towards the end, right after one of the highlight guitar solos you’ll find on this record as well…and combined with the storming presence of the rhythm-section so locked in to the core of this cut, Zygon puts the fireworks into this tune through an ultrasonic sampling of their Progressive instrumental chops. As a guy that grew up with about fifteen keyboards in the house when the old man wasn’t out there on the road touring – believe me, I dig tracks like “Solo Flight” that are willing to let the keys & synths shine in their moment in the spotlight without apologies or compromise. All-in-all, with this being one of the longer cuts on the new Zygon record, you’ll find every instrument involved gets its moment in the sun here – even the guitars sunken in brilliantly into the background as they storm & stomp their way through the most intense moments of their punishing sound, everything makes the impact it should, and gets noticed for all the right reasons. The skills these guys have! I could go on & on and I know that I HAVE – but there is a REASON dear readers, dear friends – in fact, SEVERAL – and the best thing about that? Zygon kept supplying MORE of them as this record played on & they do right to the very end – “Solo Flight” is a powerful ride through rhythms, grooves, hard-hitting versatility, and true cleverness in composition – this song is full-on strong enough to beat you in an arm-wrestle.
Again, I cannot stress this enough – production plays such a significant role here on Signs And Symbols. After the wild vibrant sound of “Solo Flight,” they cleverly back right into an acoustic-led vibe with their final track “A Different Life,” and bring in an ambient thread into the atmosphere that makes it seem like they’re hanging out on the fire-escape & playing this track for the street below for a moment or two. It eventually shifts its way to the more studio-esque sound of Zygon’s style, but the way they’ve genuinely pulled a 180-degree turn in just about every direction here at the end made a huge impact even more impressive by being delivered through such delicate & unexpected means. I mean…think of it like this – the moment you pushed play on “Occam’s Razor” long ago, and Zygon started the process of slaying your speakers…you didn’t think you’d end up all the way over here in acoustic-land by the end did ya? While “Solo Flight” does end up feeling like the real finale of Signs And Symbols, this gentle epilogue afterwards still makes a resounding conclusion…once “A Different Life” wraps up, you know this new experience with Zygon is over…the kind of definitive ending that makes you wanna stand up and cheer, you know what I mean? This record has been such an amazing adventure in sound and skill – Signs And Symbols is 100% proof that every awesome thing I’ve had to say about them is a verifiable fact & truths that every single one of us listening can hear – Zygon is going to make an impact on ya, I guarantee it.
Find out more about Zygon at their official website at: https://www.zygonmusic.com