Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this evening’s Independent Spotlight, we explore a brand new act hailing from Oulu, Finland. Zero Verdict’s ambitious debut record is ‘Walk Tall,’ a hard-stomping romp through classic rock inspired jams with a contemporary flair. The four-piece outfit cites influences ranging from Michael Jackson to Rage Against The Machine. The result? A rather unique, most certainly fun effort worth checking out. Let’s get into it.
Zero Verdict’s blend of rock and roll would be ideal in a stadium. It’s modernized 1980’s stadium rock, at least, at heart. They do explore darker tendencies, though, which makes sense since they’re an act citing Rage Against the Machine alongside the King of Pop. Sonically, I’d draw a parallel between Zero Verdict and acts like Queen or Foreigner.
As aforementioned, ‘Walk Tall’ is a bold effort. It’s ten full-throttle rock and roll tracks that explore varying songwriting and compositional depths. The first three tracks of the record feel like a trifecta of rock and roll: they hit you over the head repeatedly with searing distortion and infectious harmonies and choruses. Despite their rock flair, the band never loses sight of what makes a song catchy and interesting. ‘Release Yourself’ and ‘Be On Your Way’ are superb examples of that.
Vocalist Sami Huotari exhibits a nice bit of range throughout ‘Walk Tall.’ He’s the driving force behind the effort - not to discount the excellent instrumentation the three others provide, but Huotari’s inflection and delivery provides a face for the beast. (As with any good rock frontman.) I really dig the places the band ventures in tracks like ‘Be On Your Way,’ a cascading, soothing rocker that escalates from plucked acoustics to demanding, forceful electric riffs.
While Zero Verdict walks a line between classic rock and harder themes, you’ll likely find several instances of pop-infusion on ‘Walk Tall.’ ‘Train!’ may be the strongest example of this. Those choruses? They’ll have you humming long after you’ve been through the motions on this album. Now, that doesn’t mean you can discount more theatrical, even cinematic excursions.
‘Delire Grandiose’ is the defiant high point of ‘Walk Tall.’ The track showcases an entirely different side of Zero Verdict, one that feels absolutely epic. This track in particular is astounding, which is a fantastic segway into my next point about Zero Verdict: their production. It’s stunning. For a sonic landscape that’s littered with intricate effects, heavy rock and roll, and reverb-soaked lead vocals, it’s insanely well mixed and produced. Nothing feels overpowering; nothing feels out of place. That’s a very high accolade for an independent act pushing out a debut effort. This could easily be mistaken for a high-budget, mainstream effort - not a band with less than a thousand Facebook followers. (Of course, making music like this is the best way to skyrocket that follower count.)
I also really dig ‘Remembrance,’ the final track on ‘Walk Tall.’ It has a sense of finality that seems fitting to such a collection. It’s composition also feels sparse and grassroots, a compelling contrast to tracks like ‘Delire Gradiose.’ If anything, the final track makes a statement that Zero Verdict doesn’t necessarily need the grand sonic shroud they’re engulfed in throughout the album. They don’t use it as a crutch: they can bring it down to basics and succeed just as wholeheartedly.
‘Walk Tall’ is a beautiful effort, one worthy of every accolade that’ll go its way. My only criticism of it is that the content blends together a bit. Aside from my two or three favorite tracks, I can’t remember what makes one song different than the next. Many of the songs blur into one another and the album may have been better suited by seven or eight tracks instead of ten. That’s not a bad thing; just something worth noting. Some pieces are just less memorable than others. Check out the album regardless; it’s very much worth your time. It’s a terrific display of nostogic indie rock and roll perfect for a fan of acts like Queen. (Hell, ‘Remembrance’ even has a Zeppelin touch to it, too.) Find the band’s record below!