Review: Zola Jesus wears heart on her sleeve in Okovi

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Review by Shannon Lawlor

Darkness can clutch it’s icy fingers to your chest in just a matter of minutes. Once it’s grip has strengthened, fighting back is near impossible. Especially when taking this leap alone, it can be more than just a lesson in personal turmoil and figuring out how to break through.

But sometimes this chaos can show itself in the most peculiar of ways – for example, through artwork or film. And for nearly a century now, this has been an integral part in all mediums of production, but especially in music. Music can be such a personal thing, but one of the most painless ways to portray your inner-most thoughts and feelings.

Zola Jesus is an artist who wears her heart on her sleeve, yet still retains a certain sense of mysticism. Mainly exploring and experimenting within the confines of dark electronica, classical, industrial and goth, defining Zola Jesus’ music through one single genre would be to underestimate her talent.

Through the use of unconventional song structure and writing, Zola Jesus explores a more personal side of life on her new album Okovi, released on September 8th via Sacred Bones. ‘Okovi’, meaning ‘Shackles’ directly translated from Bosnian, may be a window into the mind of Zola Jesus’ vocalist and producer Nika Roza Danilova, and what may be a window into her own personal hell.

Exhumed’ follows the introduction, and here we find ourselves nervous; running toward a cold, tired dungeon. With a pounding heart, the doors swing open and you move closer and closer into the abyss. Glitch electronics spit and spew from the chorus like electricity from frayed wire underneath an alarming strike of orchestral plea. Followed by ghosts, the doors shut closed and you find yourself running faster and faster.

One of Nika’s most outstanding vocal performances comes from ‘Witness’, her entrancing yet stirring delivery glows like aurora-borealis deep in the night’s sky; above glacial skyscrapers, fixed on iced-over water sheets. A dazzling string section acts as the fresh air and a sincere scenery.

Veka’ is shrouded in a dark aura. A steady pulse leads us astray and follows a blackening path into reflective territories. With chorus lines “Who will find you, when all you are is dust”, it’s evident that this comes from a fragile state of mind. Electronic beats fill the air like winter’s wind before charging to a halt as spectral voices spell out the end.

Serving as a reminder that not all of life is bleak, ‘Remains’ gives us a shred of hope on the current state of our planet. A buzzing bassline runs like dripping paint onto an energetic electronic-esque beat. Another surefire sign of Nika’s enchanting vocal delivery and song-writing ability. The presence of passion is so strong on this one, you can almost taste it.

The album’s closer ‘Half Life’ is an instrumental soundscape breathing in frigid winter air, melancholic strings wail and sob amidst a digital throb and distanced drum beat. It’s definitely an ode to self-reflection judging by the resonant ring left in your ear after a single complete listen.

Order Okovi by Zola Jesus HERE

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