Zombi look past the cataclysm of the last few years to a focused, reflective, robust future on Direct Inject

Release date: March 22, 2024 | Relapse Records | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

Somewhere between John Carpenter‘s legendarily moody synth production and the kitsch of Cannon-produced film soundtracks lie Zombi. The Philly duo have been around for a while doling out instrumental rock indebted to ’80s ambient and synth music, which I’m sure is little surprise for a band named after a cult classic horror film series from Italy. Mix in some prog proclivities and they’ve always been a band I’ve looked out for ever since falling into their unique time warp with 2015’s album Shape Shift. I even reviewed their 2020 album 2020 which I totally forgot about until now if that’s any indication how age is treating my memory.

Back with a new LP of original work, Zombi feel rejuvenated and sparked like a lighter. Direct Inject functions like a greatest hits album for the band, showcasing the array of sounds, moods, and tones they’re known for – it would take an inordinately large review to cover it all, even for me, so I won’t, suffice it to say there’s literally something here for everyone. “The Post-Atomic Horror” is one of the more suspenseful offerings with forward-seated bass and a menacing melody to it. It’s all very mid-paced so it’s quite fitting of a thriller movie rather than a horror one, but the acidic and spacy synths might convince you otherwise. “Bodies in the Flotsam” leans on the Carpenter influence in a similarly ominous way, but it’s darker and less busy which plays to the openness the title invokes. “Sessuale II” on the other hand is a saxophonic leisurely lounge in pure ’80s sleaze and if I didn’t know any better would say that Alan Palomo had a hand in with the hazy atmosphere and sultry tone. It’s one of my favorite tracks Zombi ever did. And these are just the singles!

Digging deeper is where a lot of Direct Inject‘s real hand is shown. The title track really is like the intro sequence music for the album, anthemic and alluring. It’s very synth heavy which makes sense since the album is too. There’s even some descending “Tom Sawyer“-esque synths on the backend to really bring home the prog and set the tone for future songs, like “So Mote it Be”. This is one of my favorites on the album. Simple yet infectious melody, there’s a warm synth hum hanging in the back, and the drums sound immaculate. The subtle change-up and synth leads that take over midway through smack of a spy thriller montage or something and I love it. I’d say this should have been a single instead, but it just makes the album stand taller this way and rewards full listens.

Maybe it’s a form of recency bias, but it genuinely feels like Zombi really stretched out with Direct Inject, and whether it comes down to instrumental breadth or production choices, it also sounds like the most robust and varied album from them yet. The only thing Zombi has ever suffered from for me is the desire to go back to their albums years after the fact – I struggle to find reasons to often – but Direct Inject might be the first to carry true longevity because of its richness and less reliance on synth rock and film soundtrack tropes that weigh the music down a bit.

Direct Inject is the most ‘complete’ Zombi album yet, and it goes to show the duo still have a lot to chip away at even if they do get preoccupied looking back in order to go forward. That’s hard to do well, especially when we’re still on the tail-end of a big resurgence of throwback synth-based music which they came up through and survived just like the titular horror creature. Somehow, they persevere, but it’s no real mystery – they know their way around writing some compelling, intriguing, and, yes, nostalgic soundscapes that I may not have a direct lived reference to, but I guess the injection’s the next best thing. Now, Mr. Steve Moore, any way we can get a new Miracle album? PLEASE?!

David Rodriguez

David Rodriguez

"I came up and so could you, and fuck the boys in blue" - RMR

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