Make Friends Not Enemies

Zodiac N Black; a name that might suggest a rather stiff cocktail is more obviously the moniker of a rock band (or what the NME would've dismissively tagged as 'rawk' back in the day) and a rock band they are. Dealing in widescreen vistas, soaring guitar and weighty riffs Zodiac N' Black are traditionalists but in no way stuck simply revering the past fretting over rules and style.

If one were to cast one's critical eye over the charts and the mainstream media at large one could surmise that rock in this form no longer existed. Replaced instead, by anodyne chaps in touch with their feelings and the folkie songbook, neon mega pop or by over-sexed, under-brained reality television fodder. Rock survives, however, in venues from the toilet circuit to the world's sports stadia and all that lies in between. This is the world into which London four piece Zodiac N Black arrive with their soulful take on the basic guitar-bass-drums-vocals setup on debut record The Aftermyth.

The grating pun of the title aside the record is a loose, warm take on big rock sounds. Blending seventies arena rock with grunge scuzz and sounding like Audioslave fronted by Monster Magnet's Dave Wyndorf the Zodiacs conjure up ten bluster free tracks and certainly do not want for tunes - witness the chorus of opening pace setter Bastinado, "Release me. Make me pay". There are some stand out moments on The Aftermyth, for instance the gnarly riff that snakes around Necessary Evil and the spacey mini-jam that builds into a skyscraping finale, the furiously catchy Only the Lonely that combines a gambolling riff to an intricate martial beat. Elsewhere Better Off Dead focuses on a juddering staccato guitar line and pounding drums allowing Jad to take centre stage while the hushed, shimmery Who's The Fool (Part One) shows that the band can take the atmosphere down a notch. Closer Lights on Blues sees Zodiac N Black stretch out. Initially revolving around a Kim Thayil derived gloom ridden guitar pattern before hitting a bluesy dirge that eventually clears for a arena sized riff and a lyric of "Take me away..." over the course of ten minutes.

Their songs are hardly artless, sure the lyrics can be impersonal and heavy on cliche but that never stopped Noel Gallagher and rarely puts a dampener on The Aftermyth such is Jad's committed delivery, but ultimately this is music for the heart. The rhythm section of Hank and Luca keep it simple but up-front throughout allowing guitarist Jim to lock in and out of songs adding colour and texture as he weaves through songs with his parsimonious lead style: it's a potent mix, one that they've obviously painstakingly honed together. The spark is there in Zodiac N Black but it's harder than ever to survive in this business so if we want them to prosper get out and see them live where this music still thrives.