Stepping out of the shadows
Zola Jesus - Conatus

You come into the album thinking you’ve got Nika Roza Danilova pegged; another one bewitched by Karin Dreijer Andersson’s nightmares and Freddy Kruger dress sense, happy to use the pretence of artistic darkness to hide in the shadows instead of bringing them to life.

Then there’s the sense that Zola Jesus, at her worst, is as pompously overblown as U2 album filler and Florence And The Machine’s throaty warble, constantly, needlessly striving for the big dynamic. Throw in the witch-house tag that was quickly lumbered her way and you’re already dropping this into the bin next to your girlfriend’s Twilight DVD.

So when opener ‘Swords’ reverts to stereotype and the excruciatingly slow pace of ‘Avalanche’ grimaces into life, the knives are out and glinting in the basement candlelight. But then, ‘Vessel’ stirs and surges and hits with a groundswell of industrial intent as Nika’s voice fills the dungeon chamber; ‘Hikkomori’ rumbles into life with violins wildly slashing at the low frequency discordance and, somewhat oddly, ‘Seekir’ hurtles into an invigoratingly powerful number that almost lifts the gloom.

It’s an arresting switch up that is almost, frustratingly, undone by the over ambitious ‘In Your Nature’ where her tendency to seek out the show stopping vocal can go awry. But on the intense, driving ‘Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake’ we hear Zola Jesus crystallised, heaving between the ethereal and industrial to emerge determinedly progressive. Stepping out of the shadows suits her after all.




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