Walk The Plank

Written by: PP on 02/01/2016 06:53:38

For almost two decades, Zebrahead have been the go-to and for party starter anthems characterized by their mindless fun, especially in live environments. The band have made it no secret that they are in it for having a blast, not for complex songwriting or for artistic integrity. This approach has, predictably, resulted in mixed results, with the band's early material classified as classic pop punk material and later output mostly coming across as superfluous filler albums with few catchy songs amidst mostly forgettable and bland metallic pop punk tracks. "The Early Years - Revisited" earlier this year, a re-recording of some of their biggest hits with the current lineup, was a painful reminder of how good Zebrahead were in the beginning and how today they're mostly fun for their engaging and hilarious live performances.

"Walk The Plank", their eleventh studio album, follows that same pattern as their past four or five studio albums: designed to keep the party going and the booze flowing, so to say, with a few bright moments stashed in between. Take album opener "Who Brings A Knife To A Gun Fight?", for instance, a metallic pop punk piece that references Sum 41's "Screaming Bloody Murder" or "Chuck" era, and its "I wanna party party / we wanna party party / SHE wants to party party / WE WANNA PARTY PARTYYYY" segment that's designed outright to get bigger crowds going apeshit while Ali points at different sections of the crowd during each line. It's sure to be a blast live, but the song is a little dumbed down to work on an album. Mindless fun with a metal solo, but not much more than that.

"Worse Than This" is the polar opposite in comparison. It's a catchy, upbeat pop punk track with bouncy melodies and hip-hop inspired, distorted vocals that Zebrahead have always been known for. The chorus is infectious and will work as a huge sing-along anthem in a live environment. The same applies for "Freak Show", which is equally bouncy and memorable from first listen. Common to both is a strong lean on pop punk as opposed to the metallic vibe many of the other tunes have. "Running With Wolves", for instance, is much faster and heavier, yet its screeching guitars and fast-paced chorus will go down well with Zebrahead fans. Similarly, "Headrush" offers another combo between metallic riffage and a pop-driven chorus, underlining the split of genres Zebrahead have always dabbled in throughout their career. Not sure whether to be pop punk or metal, the band are taking a middle of the road approach to both genres, borrowing killer riffs from metal and catchy choruses from pop punk, though without ever resorting into straight up easycore or pop-hardcore approach as we've seen with Four Year Strong and many others like them.

In that sense, Zebrahead have always been reasonably original, stylistically speaking. Sum 41 are pretty much the only major band directly comparable to Zebrahead's sound, but otherwise, they've navigated the music scene with a fun-loving, party-starting worship of metal and pop punk mostly on their own. It's a shame that the records are so inconsistent, which is also the case here. A few highlight tracks and far too many forgettable ones mean "Walk The Plank", like its immediate predecessors, is a fun listen once or twice but fails to raise proper momentum.

Download: Worse Than This, Freak Show, Running With Wolves, Headrush
For the fans of: Sum 41, Blink 182, 311, Four Year Strong, Veara
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.10.2015
Rude Records

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