"Grain of Soul"

By The Great Sun Jester

Zodiac’s fourth full length album from Napalm Records, Grain of Soul, finds this German four piece digging a deep groove and consolidating the achievements of their previous three releases. It is an eleven song collection starting off strong and ending just as strongly without any of the conceptual baggage that sometimes weighed down their preceding album Sonic Child. Where that album sometimes felt like an earnest overreach, Grain of Soul finds the band returning to their first principles as a rock band. They are still first class songwriters creating intelligent and ballsy material in a genre where the former is at a premium. 

“Rebirth by Fire” is equal parts passionate personal statement and riff laden masterpiece. Nick Van Delft’s fluency as both lead singer and lead guitarist is powerful testimony to his impressive skill, but his collaborators Stephan Gall on rhythm guitar, Ruben Ciaro on bass, and drummer Janosch Rathmer are a powerful outfit able to summon fire with little apparent effort. The propulsive riff attack Van Delft and company fire at listeners with the second track “Animal” has a wide swing reminiscent of the band’s obvious influences. Like any great band wearing influences on their sleeve, Zodiac manages to channel their influences through the distinct prism of their collective personalities. “Down” foregoes the full on guitar workouts for a much moodier track demonstrating their talent for exploring different textures within the band’s arsenal of colors. Van Delft adds a vocal full of the same atmospherics and character.

There’s a fierce swagger to “Faithless” ranks as one of the album’s highlights. The overarching theme of the song is a little familiar, but it’s a classic rock and roll trope the band polishes up in exceptional fashion. Van Delft’s vocal is a highlight too thanks to the leering confidence coming through in his phrasing. If he’s faithless, as the song states, he wears it as a badge of honor. The Delta blues by way of the Fatherland vibe heard during the first half of “Crow” carries enormous credibility despite the band’s transplanted roots, but Zodiac can’t resist unleashing the dogs of hell in the song’s second half and ending with earth-splitting guitar rock. “Ain’t Comin’ Back” is lean and white-knuckle hard strut rock with the requisite bluesy edge. It sparks to life from the first note and keeps such muscular focus that hard rock fans will be hard pressed to skip it or not return for multiple revisits. The cocksure resolution in Van Delft’s voice is worth hearing the song for alone.

Grain of Soul’s penultimate track “Sinner” has one of the album’s best choruses thanks to its gradually ascending quality. Van Delft’s lead work and his chemistry with second guitarist Gall crackle with fire and has an impressively dense and intimate sound. There’s a live, on-the-floor feel to each of these eleven performances and the tailor-made production job “Sinner” and other songs receive is a big reason why. The title track drops an authoritative final curtain on the album with another statement of purpose. The song works quite well when you look back to the album’s beginning – though there isn’t an overt conceptual idea structuring the track listing, “Grain of Soul” neatly dovetails into “Rebirth by Fire” and gives the album an unexpected unity one doesn’t often hear from modern releases.