Album Review: Zola Jesus – Okovi

Zola Jesus – Okovi

Released 29th July 2017

Words: Nick Jacques

Background: Nika Rosa Danilova, or better known as Zola Jesus, has been an active recording artist for more than a decade and has released an esteemed full-length 5 albums and 3 Eps. Her 6th album Okovi is her latest offering.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zola Jesus, she grew up in Wisconsin, Milwaukee and this fact alone plays a significant part in the conception of this album. She is renowned for creating dense, gothic industrial soundscapes that leave you enthralled and spellbound.

Prior to the commencement of recording this album, she decided to relocate back to her childhood environment and build a new house and recording studio just a stone-throw away from where she collected all those early memories. This personal attachment was also an important feature in the shaping of her latest creation.

In a statement which Nika gave in support for the upcoming release of Okovi, she explained the influences behind the construction of her latest musical body of creation were down to memories of loved ones passing away, pondering the meaning of loss and bereavement, showing bravery and accepting loss for what it is. Not exactly inviting words from the songstress, but for any gravitas she may lose in selling the album with her words, she certainly makes up for it on record.

Ovoki is undoubtedly compelling and engrossing stuff. Swirls of orchestral arrangements engulf the senses. Rich textures combine with gothic splendour in impressive fashion. The opening track Doma plays out with deep cathartic meditation.

The previous track I reviewed Exhumed with its nods to Bjork’s classic Homogenic, sounds more invigorating on the album than on its own. The beguiling sounds and the general experience might at times go beyond your threshold but this track sets Okovi up to challenge the listener in exhilarating fashion.

Soak seems to have a cleansing effect. After being thoroughly “exhumed”, this feels like a stern pick-me up. The production is pristine and darkly delicious, and at times I felt myself falling into this rather than Zola’s voice but on the opening on Ash To Bone, the technique of her vocals is something to be astounded by.

Mournful atmospherics penetrate on Witness and it is hard not fightback the tears. The striped back production lets the violins build to undeniable climatic finale. Proper pimple exposure time! I couldn’t hold them back!

The tempo steps up a notch towards the end with the uplifting and pulsating Remains and climaxes with Half Life – a thick slice of cathartic yet haunting harmonies that wash over the listener.

This is an album for those who love their musical pallet to consist of other worldly immersive experiences with an intense edge. Zola Jesus has certainly hit the nail on the head in that area with her latest offering.

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