Album Review: Zola Jesus - Okovi
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The fifth album from Zola Jesus opens with an ethereal Gregorian chant, dreamy yet ominous as several layers of Zola softly repeat the phrase "take me home".Given the placement of 'Exhumed' as the album's second track, it hints that through the darkness will come a light, and indeed hope is something to be found plenty of throughout Okovi.
For Zola - the stage name of Nika Roza Danilova - home is the woods of Wisconsin, and her return to these roots laid the foundation for Okovi, an eleven track odessey into her grappling with loss, mortality, trauma and the will to survive.
It's not easy to revolve an entire album around the concept of death without becoming unbearably morose.
Harder still when your primary sonic influences are steeped in the dark and the gothic. Yet Zola manages to instill an admirable, twisted power into even the bleakest of ideas.
On 'Soak' there's a raw defiance in her operatic voice as she assumes the role of the victim of a serial killer - a victim who ultimately makes the decision to go along with the ordeal rather than give her killer the agency.
'Veka' deals with the question of legacy over a slick house concoction: "Who will find you/When all you are, all you are is dust?/Who will find you/For centuries?"
But it's the panicked horror of lead single 'Exhumed' that shows the singer-songwriter at her most potent capabilities. The combination of anxious, stabbing strings and her haunting Amy Lee-esque howls is devastatingly powerful; as much as it deals with pain, it also points to the idea of rebirth.