Bio (condensed from facebook.com/outlawsofzen):
It’s the combination of high intensity rock n roll, working class frustration, that inspire and shape the sounds of “The Outlaws of Zen”; a quartet from the Tri-Cities, Michigan. Formed in March of 2011 from the dissolution of a previous band, founding members Korey Gillespie on guitar, and drummer, Travis Evans, begin creating a new sound based on their shared creative perspectives. The Outlaws Of Zen live by the three R’s of the heavy music world: Retro. Riff. Rock. While briefly constructing new material as a two piece, they discovered the need for a broader sound. Through mutual friends, bass player, Tommy Koppman was discovered in July 2011 and quickly added his unique bass flavor to the sound. In October 2011, vocalist Joe Gibson joined the trio bringing lyrical creativity to the band’s high energy instrumental tracks. The combination of these four musicians created an instantaneous change in the energy and the direction of the band’s sound, fueling the need to play live, record, and share.
Travis Evans (Drums, Triangle, Keyboards), Joe Gibson (Lead and Backing Vocals), Korey Gillespie (Guitar), Tommy Koppman (Bass and Backing Vocals)
Right from the first few seconds, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy DON’T BOTHER GETTING UP, WE’LL LET OURSELVES IN. The Outlaws of Zen kick things off with a badass riff that sets the tone for the rest of the EP: hard-rocking fun. And for the most part, that’s what DBGU delivers.
The first track on the EP, “Boiling Point,” is built around the aforementioned riff, and it really is a badass piece of work. The riff reminds me a bit of Queens of the Stone Age, and then the song veers off into decidedly non-Queens areas. I really like this track; from the guitar to the bass backup to the drums, most everything works. Except for the vocals. For me, the song started to go down hill once the lyrics began; the delivery didn’t fit the songs overall feel, other than the outro bit (“There’s just so much you can take…”), which really felt a lot more like what I would expect from a track built on a riff that strong.
The EP goes back and forth between stronger and not-as-strong tracks. “With the Swine” has much better vocals that really fit the music more that most of “Boiling Point,” but it never breaks out a riff as strong as the opener. “Standard Double Standard” starts off with another fine piece of guitar, but after the intro it breaks into a much more bluesy-feel that I just did not get along with. The chorus is much better for me, as is the pieces later that stay away from the bluesier bits.
Along with “Boiling Point,” I also got into “Elephant Bites.” This track is more cohesive in its feel; everything works really well together. It has some good riffs throughout, and I think it would be a lot of fun to hear performed live. The shining star of DBGU was “Pornstache,” you have just got to love a song about a seemingly 70’s era pornstar named “Thunderlips Johnson.” This track really has it all for The Outlaws of Zen. It has good riffs, a nice buildup and payoff, and very funny lyrics. “…the man’s got pride / Pornstache like that, who wants a moustache ride?” sings Gibson in what I think is the best delivery on the EP. Gotta love it.
The production is a bit rough around the edges, but not bad in the slightest. The less-polished feel of DBGU actually helps with the style of music, giving the album a garage-rock feel. The production is never bad enough to take away from the album, other than there are some lyrics I just could not quite make out no matter how hard I tried. The guitar, bass, and drums are all well balanced (though personally I could use a bit heavier bass drum, but that’s just me).
Overall, DBGU was a fun little EP, and I look forward to seeing where The Outlaws of Zen end up. For such a young band, they are refined, and should only get more so as time goes on. DBGU has its hits and misses, but overall is more pro than con. With some more time writing and playing music together, I do not doubt that The Outlaws of Zen’s next release will be much stronger and even more badass.
Overall 6.5 / 10
DBGU for sale: http://theoutlawsofzen.bandcamp.com/