by James Fleming
While they’ve only been around for a few decades, it feels like the machines have been here forever. Ubiquitous is the word; “existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent.” The electric guitar, the drum kit, the synthesiser, they’ve been used and abused since their very inception, for good and evil.
It’s always refreshing to hear these tools put to work in new ways. They’ve been misused so often, and for so many billions in cash, for so long, that it’s easy to forget that us humans have more to give. And that these tools are not blunted yet.
They Called Him Zone prove that point. The Dark Wave genre is a little known electronic offshoot of Goth Rock. A dark, foreboding place undoubtedly beloved by moody hipsters the world over for its ominous synth textures and obscurity.
They Called Him Zone dwell in such a place. It’s easy to imagine the pair of them, Mik Davis and Steve Maloney, alone but for each other, swathed in cigarette smoke, endlessly twiddling the dials on their synths, in pursuit of that ever elusive sound.
On the three tracks they have released from their upcoming mini LP Crow Swan Wolf, they display a strength of character rare amongst such dark company.
Pure darkness is boring. It’s alluring to a certain extent, but it gets very old very quickly. They Called Him Zone have managed to steer clear of a “none more black” sound by keeping things interesting. By adding in Mary Chain-esque guitar parts to the tracks and a downright cheerful xylophone (most likely synthesised) line on Devil Dying, they avoid staring down the abyss, and instead, they lure us in by dangling their feet over the edge.
Vocals set low in the mix, a prominent but not pounding beat, and flashes of treble-noise guitar. It’s a glorious melding of cohesive elements bathed in haunting reverb.
It’s only on the first track, Waste You, that the darkness threatens to overwhelm They Called Him Zone. With its refrain of “I’ll waste you/ I’ll take you/ Even in my dreams I like to hate you.” Only there do they threaten us with the full wrath of the abyss. And all the boredom that comes with it.
They Call Him Zone have breathed fresh life into a sub-genre bent and intent on repeating itself. Most examples of a band fitting snugly into a sub-genre are bands who fit that mould perfectly and rigidly. Unwilling and unable to change. Traditionalists.
Here, we have an example of a band creating stunning work whereby they have taken the choice cuts of the past and welded them to the present. They are far from traditionalists. Any doubts? Just listen closer.