ZODIAC is one of the coolest bands I’ve heard in a long time. I first got turned onto them around this time last year when their second album A Hiding Place was about to release thanks to Kelly over at Prosthetic Records. I still play the hell out of that one. Kelly also had the unenviable task of breaking the news to me that the band was denied visas and would not be playing the States at their scheduled date just two months later. Well, at least I had my album to drown my sorrows in. And speaking of which, the boys from Germany have just dropped their third one on us. Sonic Child is out now, and once again the group recorded at Megaphon Tonstudios with producer Martin Meinschäfer, who seems to always find ways to get the best out of them.
The record opens in completely different fashion than what we’re used to, with “Intro Who I Am” that starts as a spoken word piece and winds up in PINK FLOYD territory. “Swinging on the Run” employs a mid-tempo bluesy groove with a fluid, extended guitar solo that gives way to an instrumental fade out. The title track shows singer and lead guitarist Nick Van Delft in top form and “Holding On” is a tasty riff-rocker that showcases the talents of bassist Ruben Claro (who also plays organ throughout the record) working hand-in-hand with drummer Janosch Rathmer. The solo here is pure feeling and heart. Van Delft and Stephan Gall play off of each other smoothly, helping to make this a sure-fire standout.
One thing this band does really well in addition to rocking out is moving, soulful slow tunes, and “Sad Song” is no exception. Acoustic guitars and an elegant solo is all that’s needed. No parlor tricks necessary. These guys know how to keep it simple. “Out of the City” is another fast number that glides along with some tight riffs and nifty runs. But the unrivaled gem on Sonic Child is without a doubt “A Penny and a Dead Horse”. With one foot rooted in the slide guitar of the Mississippi Delta for the first two minutes it then takes off at a gallop for the next five, bringing us to a total of seven minutes in Heaven. “Good Times” is quite simply just that, a good time that people can shake it to (only if they want, though. No pressure).
The smoldering pain of “Rock Bottom Blues” has arguably the best guitar solo on the disc and Claro uses the organ in the background to fully enhance the feel of the song. For nine minutes we take the ride down the road of whiskey and sorrow, and it’s one that you’ll probably be eager to take again when it’s done. The record ends with “Just Music”, Claro’s bass and Rathmer’s drums once again laying down the groove for Gall and Van Delft to follow. There are a lot of bands right now doing the whole 70’s hard rock/blues thing. Some are just pale imitations trying to cash in on a craze. But bands like HORISONT, BLUES PILLS, and of course ZODIAC are the ones who do it right. The cream always rises to the top, which is exactly where this band belongs.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Holding On”, “A Penny and a Dead Horse”, “Sonic Child”, “Rock Bottom Blues”, “Out of the City”