Blood, Guts, and Rush

Picking Zombi's brain

"We've got hundreds of friend requests lined up, but I wanna relish this," laughs Steve Moore — bassist, synth wizard, and one-half of instrumental prog-tologists Zombi (along with drummer Tony Paterra). Moore is referring to the band's MySpace buddy count of 2,112, which has great significance due to the Rush album with the same numbers. "Rush is definitely one of our biggest influences, probably more than Goblin even," Moore adds.

Goblin is of course the '70s Italian prog-horror outfit best known for its ghoulish soundtrack to 1978's Dawn of the Dead. Formed in 2001, Zombi took its name from that film's European title, and its early musical style from Goblin's accompanying album. Using banks of gritty analog synthesizers and throbbing percussion, Moore and Paterra craft cheesy-yet-chilling death buzzes and sudden, cacophonous fright-stabs: tension and terror that could reduce Chuck Norris to a blubbering schoolboy.

Though Zombi hasn't abandoned undead freakiness on its second full-length, Surface to Air — the intro to 18-minute album capper "Night Rhythms" is fittingly creepy — the bulk of the record sounds like Moving Pictures/Signals-era Rush. That is, if Geddy Lee had permanent laryngitis and guitarist Alex Lifeson got lost on his way to the recording sessions. The bass lines are punchy and melodic, the layered sequences are spacey and propulsive, and Paterra's tricky rhythms and precision fills sure are Peart-y. There are also stylistic nods to such Zombi favorites as Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Genesis, and the Alan Parsons Project. Moore explains that the duo's shift in direction comes from a desire to escape "Goblin tribute band" stigma while still exploring the darker side of their proggy forebears.

"Those bands used to make these really gloomy and brooding albums, but then by, like, '82 or '83, everything they were writing had this weird celebratory vibe," Moore explains. "We're trying to take the ideas those bands had in the '70s and almost present an alternative course of evolution. Y'know, [like] what if Tangerine Dream hadn't dropped the ball?"

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