Darkness immediately falls on Zerra 1's self-titled first LP. On the opening track, "Mountains & Water," singer Paul Bell sounds as if he's in agony. His vocals ache with the pain of a man who has a noose around his neck. The music's slow, dramatic rhythms, especially the spectral keyboards, show that Zerra 1 has learned a thing or two from gothic rock icons Joy Division. But other than "Mountains & Water" and "Diaries," Zerra 1 aims for something more ambitious than being another Joy Division clone. Bell, guitarist Andreas Grimminger, bassist Adrian Wyatt, and drummer Mike Mesbur take U2's expansive sonic landscapes and give them a little grit. Bell's lyrics are not always comprehensible, but the feeling in his singing is. On "Tumbling Down," Bell's vocals have the urgency of a ruler watching his kingdom collapse; moody, driving riffs paint pictures of crumbling walls. Bell's voice may seem odd to some; however, it's hard to resist the emotional pull of "I Feel It." The scrappy guitars of "Rain" recall Passion Puppets, but that's probably because both bands share an obvious infatuation with U2. Bell nearly captures Bono's soaring vocals on "I Know"; in fact, it could easily be mistaken for a U2 song. Zerra 1 starts to meander near the end; nevertheless, it's an explosive debut.
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