Zetamale – S/T EP


Every music scene is incestuous to some degree, but the Lovitt Records clan around the Richmond, Va. area has always been an especially tight-knit group. Before the side project of Bats & Mike (members of Engine Down, Four Hundred Years, Milemarker) grew cold, you have a new project featuring members of Four Hundred Years, Engine Down, Submerge and Gregor Samsa. In fact, each of the five members of Zetamale has a rich pedigree, leading you perhaps to expect this demo EP to be a development of those bands’ sounds, much as Bats & Mice was.
Well, if that’s what you were expecting, you’d be wrong. It seems that Daron Hollowell, formerly of Four Hundred Years and now principal singer, songwriter, and guitarist of Zetamale, has had his fair share of emotional hardcore. He’s mellowed out some, it seems, and the songs on Zetamale’s demo represent that. There’s just five songs of softly flowing music, centered around Hollowell’s vocals, some lightly melodic guitar, a tad too much keyboard, and some strong songwriting.
Starting off with just soft vocals and an acoustic guitar, “Blue” remains mellow throughout, a softly flowing song with some jarring organ-like keyboards that reminds me of Onelinedrawing more than any of the bands’ former projects. The piano that sets the stage for “After This” immediately brings to mind Coldplay, and Hollowell’s vocals continue that comparison. More layered vocals, as are used at times on the slightly more upbeat “Brooklyn Heights” – in addition to Beatles-esque harmonica and shakers – would be a nice addition to the full album. Perhaps the best song here is the Elliot Smith-like “What You Wanted,” with its acoustic guitars and light rhythm. It could have ended there, because the very soft “Trouble” is ultimately forgettable.
For only a demo, Zetamale has already established quite a buzz, and I’m sure the recognition of their former projects will bring in many new fans. For a demo, this isn’t bad. The songs are restrained and sound much more the work of one man than a full band, but they’re strong and show promise for the full-length that will surely follow. As the longstanding hardcore bands seem to be mellowing out, it’s no surprise to get something like this: good if unspectacular mellow indie rock.