Zebrahead - Phoenix

Fresh from their European tour, Zebrahead release their seventh studio album, “Phoenix” and, despite a heavier sound, largely fail to develop their rap-rock brand into anything really meaningful. You shouldn’t let this put you off though; as is expected, there is still plenty of fun to be had here.

The record races at breakneck speed • an amalgam of clean pop-punk melodies, occasionally flirting with heavier licks; light-hearted lyricism about (among other things) mental health and cheating girlfriends, all packed with a marked amount of exuberance.

“Phoenix” opens with the frenetically paced “HMP”, setting the standard for the rest of the record. Gone is the slightly crunchy rock sound from “Broadcast to the World”; it is now replaced with an altogether slicker breed of music. Track two, “Hell Yeah!”, preaches unity and standing up for yourself. “Mental Health”, the first single and probably the best track on the record, is humorous, lively and upbeat in a way that the rest of the album fails to be.

“Juggernauts”, begins delicately and is, along with “Mental Health”, one of the better numbers. Lyrically and musically it manages to be more emotive and meaningful than the rest of the album combined; a glimpse of what Zebrahead are actually capable of producing.

To be honest, I’ve run out of things to say. Once you have heard the first eight tracks, you have listened to the best half of the album; the remaining tracks are too ‘samey’ to be notable alone.

It’s not that “Phoenix” is necessarily a bad album; it just seems to be lacking something. There is too much gloss and not enough real feeling. Alright, yes, Zebrahead are largely about having fun, but seven albums in, is it really asking too much to expect something with more depth? A little more developed and varying, rather than something that slots neatly into the mainstream mediocre? The band has tried too hard to produce songs that are bigger • more anthemic, more epic • at the expense of really evolving the rap-rock that they do so well.

I’ll say it again: “Phoenix” is not a terrible album, just disappointing. It still provides two or three solid singles, catchy enough to be danced to, and true enough to Zebrahead’s established sound to please the fanbase and go down well at gigs. It won’t however, standout enough to draw much of a new audience, which is a real shame.