Album Review: Zola Jesus – ‘Okovi’

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Zola Jesus’ new album, like all her albums, can only be listened to at night, preferably from the highest turret of a storm-soaked castle atop a mountain. The reigning queen of epic, industrial, electronica belters returns to her original label for latest work Okovi; splicing cellos and synths into rough, orchestral goth pop. Think Esben and the Witch meets Glasser meets Chelsea Wolfe meets Anna Calvi meets Bat For Lashes.

Thematically, much of the album deals with, yes, death: less subtly than in her previous, slightly more radio-oriented output. There are multiple references to loss, illness and suicide throughout, laced between soaring, emotional, almost operatic pop sequences. This is high drama, literary music for staring at your ceiling as well as dancing drunkenly in a circle.

Zola Jesus has grown in to her wind-tunnel voice, but is fairly restrained on tracks like ‘Veka’ and ‘Soak’. The album is strongest, though, on tracks like ‘Exhumed’ and ‘Remains’, where she inhabits the powerful, charismatic character she has perfected over her discography, letting her voice soar and strain with emotion.

Despite the complicated instrumentation and dark subject matter, Okovi is a curiously consistent album; drum machines and echoing vocals bounce around every track. There is a coherence here that transforms this record into something to be listened to in one sitting rather than plucked at for Spotify playlists.

[Rhys Harper – @RhysRHarper]

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