Zombi
Escape Velocity

If you like electronic music, particularly proggy synth music, and especially synth-based horror and sci-fi soundtracks from the late ’70s and early ’80s, then you’ll love Zombi. Simple as that.

Cosmos, the Pittsburgh-based duo’s 2004 debut, was heavily influenced by Goblin (Dawn of the Dead, Buio Omega, Suspiria) and Italian giallo horror soundtracks in general. Since then, Zombi’s spacey aesthetic has leapt forward a few years, and Escape Velocity now sounds like it’s beaming to you from 1983. That means the album heavily references the cold tones and pulsing energy of John Carpenter, Vangelis and Tangerine Dream — music that should be lasered into your skull if you grew up renting movies back in the glory days of VHS. The only thing it’s missing is the Vestron Video intro (which, incidentally, appears at the start of Frightmare‘s Bringing Back the Bloodshed – horror and grind buffs, check that out).

Overall, this is a sleeker sound for Zombi. The liner notes reference the work of Italian composer and music producer Giorgio Moroder, who did the scores for Scarface, Cat People and Flashdance (among others). You’ll definitely hear that influence in the percussion, which is more of a thumping backbone than the rock-influenced drums from the past three albums. Any of the organic touches or melodies from previous album Spirit Animal are also gone, putting this closer to Surface to Air (my favorite so far in the discography anyway).

The title track, a relentless synth chase sequence, is straight-up Big Trouble in Little China; there’s also plenty of Sega Genesis-era space shooter BGMs in here too (Thunder Force II, Gaiares, Truxton, take your pick). “Slow Oscillations” is faster, yet dreamier, like a monorail trip through the City of Tomorrow. And both “DE3” and “Shrunken Heads” evoke the dancing, propulsive tumble and drone of Tangerine Dream, particularly their score from Risky Business.

These five tracks are more straightforward and less dynamic than the first two tracks from Spirit Animal. That album’s title track and its follow-up, “Spirit Warrior,” played out like multi-movement synth symphonies, and remain two of my favorite cuts in the entire Zombi discography. However, the rest of that disc was shrill and clattery, whereas all of Escape Velocity maintains the same smooth, airy vibe. That makes this the far more enjoyable album overall.

The ’80s nostalgia factor here is a huge part of the experience, but even if you grew up in the DVD era or later, Escape Velocity is still a great space rock/synth-prog album on its own.  I think I want to watch Firestarter and Escape from New York now.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 16th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    this band is so fun. the album cover is one of the cleverest and most ridiculous I’ve ever seen.


  2. Commented by: Jodi

    Great review! I must definitely hear this.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    ha Jodi I thought you decided not to cover it b/c you didn’t like it?


  4. Commented by: Jodi

    I anticipated not liking it but still haven’t heard it. I know, how rude


  5. Commented by: Cynicgods

    If you love synth-laden 80’s movie soundtracks you’re guaranteed to like this, Jodi. Me? I eat this stuff up. Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Goblin, John Carpenter, etc.

    Excellent review, Gaba. Nice to see you know your shmups. Axelay’s got the best SNES music while the Thunder Force series owns the Genesis imo.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Thunder Force III actually has the best soundtrack of the series but “Escape Velocity” really reminded me of TFII.

    Haven’t heard Axelay, barely remember it but my picks for best NES shmup BGMs would have to be Lifeforce and Guardian Legend


  7. Commented by: gabaghoul

    oops you said SNES not NES.


  8. Commented by: saif

    I saw them open for ISIS once, a long time ago. Great band, and really fun to see live (fucking loud!)


  9. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yeah I saw them on the Cosmos tour (w/ The Fucking Champs), I would love to see them again and hear some of their other stuff live.


  10. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    first full listen right now. this record is amazing.


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