Changing your vocalist isn’t an easy thing for a band to do, especially when tha vocalist has been with you for almost twenty years. However, this was the situation that zebrahead found themselves in when Matty Lewis opted to move on. His replacement, Adrian Estrella, is well known in the scene and a long-time friend of the band so chemistry isn’t an issue. As for any other issues… well, three singles have so far been released from this five-song collection so long-time fans can make their own minds up!
From my point of view, Estrella has clicked perfectly. Yes, he sounds different to Lewis, but not to the point where it jars. He’s got the tone, the energy and the attitude and I’m sure he’ll go down well with those who know the band better than I do. Certainly, on the strength of III, I don’t know if they could have got a better fit.
For those who don’t know the band, think of The Offspring-esque pop-punk with an added rap track and you’re close to it. The nearest act I can think of off the top of my head would be Sum-41. It works well, and we have a nice snapshot of the band’s sound with this release. “Lay Me To Rest” kicks things of on a rather downbeat note… for ten seconds. Then the guitar and drums kick in and we’re blasted with more bounce than any track should legally be allowed to contain. Estralla’s vocals through the chorus bring Ronnie Radke to mind, which isn’t a bad thing.
“A Long Way Down” is another song which has already had a release, featuring a great video of their first post-lockdown gig at Slam Dunk a couple of months back. A great song, it’s definitely upbeat but with a dark edge to it. But that chorus… good grief. I swear there isn’t a band going who can write more singalong stanzas than this bunch.
You can check “Out of Time” below. It was tough picking one of the new releases to attach to this review, but I went with this one because it has a DeLorean in it. Hey, I spent ages on Forza 5 doing silly chores so I could nab one the other week. I’m a fan, OK?
The other two songs are “Homesick for Hope” and “Russian Roulette is for Lover?”. The former is an angry number, about as relentless a song as zebrahead have ever done. Sure, it’s got some melodic breaks (and a section just begging for synchronised handclaps in the live environment), but it’s harsh vocals ahoy for the majority. Want a pit song? Here it is. At a shade under three minutes it’s the perfect length for getting those frustrations out.
“Russian Roulette” closes the EP in grand, chunky style. Headbanging riffage mixed with a ska influence that Reel Big Fish would be proud of is an interesting combination, but hey… it’s zebrahead. You expect normal? It’s interesting to note that the two heaviest songs are the ones which haven’t been released as singles. Maybe they just don’t translate as well into video form?
The single biggest disappointment with III is that it’s only five songs in length. I could happily have had another four or five, and a full album, if they were of a similar quality.
III is out on November 26th – pre-orders available now