Zebrahead – III (EP Review)
Zebrahead – III
Released: 26 November 2021
Adrian Estrella // rhythm guitar, vocals
Ali Tabatabaee // vocals
Dan Palmer // lead guitar
Ben Osmundson // bass
Ed Udhus // drums, percussion
2021 has been a hectic year for Zebrahead, after weeks of fan speculation it was announced in April that co-vocalist Matty Lewis had left the band to focus on making country music. After publicly stating that the band would continue, Assuming We Survive frontman Adrian Estrella was announced as Zebrahead’s new singer and guitarist back in June, dropping first single ‘Lay Me To Rest’ a few weeks later. While a departing singer can be the end of some bands, Zebrahead and their fans are resilient and there was little surprise that the band would continue, I mean they had already navigated these waters 16 or so years prior, when OG vocalist Justin Mauriello left the band. III represents Chapter 3, the ‘third’ reincarnation (yes, there have been other line-up changes in the band’s 25+ years, but front person changes are arguably the biggest change) of the band.
First single ‘Lay Me To Rest’ opens the EP, with the piano and Estrella’s vocals creating an emotive and poignant mood, before the guitars and drums kick things up a notch. Although known for incorporating and mixing a variety of genres together, ‘Lay Me To Rest’ firmly establishes a different sound for the band, one that is rock oriented with Estrella’s vocals soaring and harmonising alongside the piano, and the loved, usual elements that define Zebrahead; Udhus’ drums, Palmer’s and Osmundson’s guitar and bass riffs and Tabatabaee’s rap work.
Moving to a pop punk sound, ‘A Long Way Down’ about a toxic, depressing relationship is an uptempo song with distressing lyrics. ‘Homesick for Hope’ kicks things up a notch, will heavy metal guitar riffs, and Tabatabaee’s vocals verging on screaming, with Estrella sounding very Chester Bennington-esque during the hook, specifically the life “at the end of my rope”. The fans have been clamouring for more heavier Zebrahead, and they have certainly delivered with ‘Homesick for Hope’. Maintaining the nu-metal, rap rock style ‘Out of Time’ follows, another song that would not sound out of place on a Linkin Park album.
Bringing up the EP to a close is ‘Russian Roulette is for Lovers’ which is fast and frenetic. It is simultaneously the heaviest song on the album and the most melodic, with Estrella sweetly singing “I’m not a saint” and yelling “I’m not your saviour” throughout. The song blends different genres and sounds in the way that only Zebrahead can, and will undoubtedly be a big hit with fans.
III excels in introducing Estrella into the Zebrahead fold, he expertly switches between sounds and genres seamlessly, and is undoubtedly the most technical vocalist between himself, Mauriello and Lewis. In other words, the man can sing! However, as Estrella is incredibly versatile, he sounds like he could easily front a nu-metal band, or a rock band, alongside the pop punk of Assuming We Survive, the transitions between songs on III are not as smooth as they could be. The fact that III is an EP of only five songs exacerbates this issue.
III is a great taster of what Chapter 3 for Zebrahead will hold, but to truly appreciate the excellence that is Zebrahead, and all they can do, we need a full length to be released stat!
Zebrahead – III EP tracklisting:
1. Lay Me To Rest
2. A Long Way Down
3. Homesick for Hope
4. Out Of Time
5. Russian Roulette is for Lovers
III is out tomorrow on MFZB Records. Pre-save here
Review by Carys Hurcom @CarysWos
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