Zed- Desperation Blues

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, April 12, 2013

Hard rock is one of those genres that have become increasingly frustrating to cover as a reviewer. For every standout band that has some strong riffs and a powerful vocalist there seems to be fifty others that are either awful or have no defining features. But thankfully there are still acts like San Jose’s Zed that convince me it’s still worth looking for newcomers. Zed has been around since 2007 and released their debut album back in 2010, and this year they’ve returned with Desperation Blues which offers a nice mix of hard rock, stoner rock, and blues rock. There’s a nice balance between high octane in your face numbers and mellower moments, and as a result this is a release with some staying power.

The press sheet for Desperation Blues cites bands like Clutch and Queens of the Stone Age as direct influences, and while some of these elements are present in the band’s material they don’t quite sound like a direct clone of either. Zed seamlessly moves between blues rock, stoner rock, and even some alternative/mellower rock ‘n roll throughout the course of the album and are always able to offer something a little bit different on each song. During their heaviest moments, the group reminds me quite a bit of Black Water Rising as there is the same type of catchy grooves and raw energy present to their material. But where Zed stands out is in their ability to head in much mellower directions and stretch their song lengths out without succumbing to repetition, as tracks such as “Rain” stretch beyond the six minute mark and are able to carefully balance mellower ideas with hard hitting riffs. It feels as though the instrumentalists have put everything they have into these ten songs, and the hooks help Desperation Blues to have a good deal of staying power.

Vocalist Pete Sattari alternates between a mellower singing voice and a gruffer tone that kicks up in intensity during the heavier sections. When Sattari adopts this gruffer tone he has a sound reminiscent of a number of different stoner rock acts, but the melodic sections have a more traditional blues rock/rock ‘n roll feel. Although he is able to pull both off with relative ease, I found myself liking his mellower delivery just a bit more as a few of the gruffer sections sound just a slight bit off and it seems as though the vocals might be pushed just a bit farther than they are capable of. This doesn’t happen on every track, but there were a few where they seemed just a bit off. But thankfully this is a rarity and the versatility and strength of the performance overcomes the minor issues, resulting in vocals that should end up impressing listeners.

The sound that Zed is going for is one that feels familiar, but they have been able to pull it off in a way that stands out. Although the gruffer vocals occasionally seem just a slight bit off, the versatility of the arrangements and the killer riffs make Desperation Blues an album worth seeking out. These guys have managed to strike a fine balance between blues rock and stoner rock while incorporating some additional elements, and hopefully they’re able to find success as this is the kind of material I’d like to see filling the rock radio airwaves rather than the generic cut and paste groups they feature now.

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