Find out if the sequel to the iconic Zombie EP lives up to the original…
Who doesn’t love a good concept album? Whether it be a literal, arching narrative, or something more abstract, it adds an extra layer of intrigue and detail that, when done right, can greatly heighten the emotional impact.
Heck, Coheed and Cambria, one of my favourite bands of all time, tell an ongoing space opera throughout their discography. I’m sure I’d enjoy their music regardless of concept, but the story they tell within their songs can (and has) driven me to tears of joy, sorrow and overwhelming awe. Make sure to check out our list of the top Coheed and Cambria songs after reading this review.
But not all concept records have to follow a story of that magnitude. Indeed, The Devil Wears Prada’s 2010 EP Zombie tells a harrowing tale of an invasion of the undead within its brief 23 minute runtime. Fusing destructive metalcore riffs, lyrics that chronicle the morbid events in grizzly detail, as well as visceral sound clips of chainsaws and shotguns, it provided an appropriate soundtrack to the end of the world.
That’s why, despite four albums dropping in the time since its release, it remains my favourite TDWP record to date. So, naturally, when I heard that a sequel EP, entitled ZII would release this month, I was more than ready to have another fling with the walking dead.
But after a decade, would it offer the same punch as its predecessor? Read on as we go track by track…
Well, I got my answer in the first few seconds. There’s no preamble with the opening track Nightfall, which nearly caused an involuntary bowel movement when I popped on my headphones late into the evening. The unrelenting intensity smacks you in the face like a heavyweight roundhouse, reminding us we’re no longer on the eve of the chaos, we’re dropped right in the thick of it.
Away from the concept, the vocal and guitar melodies fuse together in a super satisfying way, particularly in the several breakdowns that scatter the latter half of the track. As soon as live shows can happen once again, I’m sure I won’t be the only one screaming “Can you make it to dawn!?” with lung bursting ferocity.
Forlorn offers a slight thematic departure, reminding us that humanity is effectively over by this point. As such, it takes on a much more sombre tone, amplifying a sense of hopelessness in the midst of the carnage.
The opening moments also incorporate electronic elements that sound right out of an early 2000s horror flick. Think the likes of Resident Evil or Doom (both of which are definitely worth a rewatch, trust me). I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but I like it.
It was during Forlorn that I realised the lyrics are far less on the nose than they had been in the first EP. One criticism of TDWP’s concept work is that it can be about as subtle as a sledgehammer, explaining the various narratives in an overtly literal fashion. This time around the lyrics are much more refined, employing subtext and allegory more so than ever before.
At the midpoint of the EP, we come across its weakest track in Termination. It isn’t awful, but for all its abrasiveness, it lacks the bite of the first two tracks. It took a while for me to put my finger on why it didn’t seem to click, and I think it tries to do too much in its limited runtime, and ultimately sounds a little messy as a result.
Again, not a bad song by any means, but far inferior to the rest of the record.
This is more like it!
Nora does what Termination tries to do, only much more effectively. Opening with the buzz of a sub droning in the bed of the sound, it teases what blooms into one of the most nu-metal inspired tracks on ZII. If there’s a track that’ll evoke headbanging, this is it; some of the riffs in the latter half have a groove that Pantera would be proud of!
There’s also a distinct tempo change between the heavier and more reserved moments, exemplifying the duality between despair and fear-ridden panic. Unlike before, there’s not an inch of fat on Nora.
Before we know it, we’re at the closer – Contagion.
Starting as a morose piano ballad, akin to the likes of latter day Bring Me In the Horizon, but before we can get too settled, the destructive, galloping riffs kick in once again. Once they do, it’s the closest they come to recreating the sound of the original EP. It’s raw, angry and everything an EP about zombies should be. With that being said, it’s balanced out with some of the most intricate guitar work, leaving us with a final impression of a band who respect where they come from, but with eyes firmly on the future.
To wrap up, ZII is a worthy success to the iconic Zombie EP. I don’t think it’s fair to classify it as better or worse, as the original has a decade’s worth of nostalgia in its favour, and it’s hard to ignore that emotional connection. With that being said, I’m confident this new release will be considered with the same reverence before too long, and I hope this isn’t the final chapter in the Zombie series.