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Ideal Zero - EP Review
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Written by Sara Letourneau   
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Ideal Zero - EP Review
Self Titled

 

CD Info

2012

Self Released / United States
5 Tracks

English Lyrics

 

 

If all I told you about Ideal Zero was they’re an alternative rock quartet from Orlando, Florida, that may (or may not) catch your attention. But what if I said that Ideal Zero is actually an electro-alternative rock band that sounds like a hybrid of Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, and The Birthday Massacre? Or that the lyrics penned by singer Irina Nicula, born in Romania during Communist rule, are among the most honest and articulate you’ll find today? Those details should intrigue you more than just the basic facts. And they’re all important details of Ideal Zero’s self-titled debut EP, one of 2012’s most breathtaking surprises.

Ideal Zero is a hypnotic wall of sound built on one hook after another. Five smooth, catchy tales are brought to life through captivating melodies, metal-tinged riffs, and Clint Waddell’s layers of synths. Synthetic sounds normally don’t play a key role in alternative rock. But here, their atmosphere and light balance out the dark in the guitars and sneak into the foreground. The textured sound also has a professional crispness thanks to renowned rock producer Brett Hestla (Tantric, Dark New Day, The Last Nova). No one will argue, though, that the band’s beating heart is Nicula. Her smooth, emotionally charged vocals will draw many comparisons to Evanescence’s Amy Lee. However, in her lyrics Nicula embraces topics such as freedom of self-expression ("Free Again"), overcoming abuse ("I Will Rise"), and betrayal ("Perfect Prey"); and she writes with keen vocabulary and fearlessness. Perhaps her heritage has motivated her to be bold as an artist – and her approach complements the music beautifully.

This inspiration shines through on Ideal Zero’s bookend tracks. "Free Again" begins with loose guitars and cymbal-play, then launches into a full-force anthem that’s equally intense and melodious. The passion in Nicula’s voice as she sings the lines "Even if my hands are bound behind my back, / My thoughts won't be tied down" will spark the same flame in the listener. Closer "Beneath The Sun" is an unexpectedly exciting ballad. The interplay between fluttering synths, Nicula’s self-affirmations, and the metallic grit gives this track such a rich character. Its lyrics of empowerment are among the best on the EP, ranging from thought-provoking poetics ("Embrace the mystery of who I’m supposed to be / A broken soul in need of sympathy") to universal metaphors ("Take away these wings, I don't want to hide / I've stripped away this fear I felt inside").

The rest of Ideal Zero plays with different aspects of the band’s sound. The midtempo "Perfect Prey" explores anger and incredulity with lyrical maturity. And between the sing-along melodies and the friendly competition between atmosphere and angst, this track will cling to your memory once it’s there. The same can be said for "I Will Rise," which cries out smash-hit potential. As the gentle arrangements crank up to full-blown, synth-distorted rock, every element offers a sense of comfort that plucks at one’s heartstrings. "Surrender" is the only track that journeys into the darker corners of the human mind. But even though Ideal Zero executes their ideas with confidence, the result isn’t as tightly composed or as intriguing as the other tracks.

"Surrender" is the only blemish on an otherwise flawless palette of songs. And that palette becomes even more colorful with each spin of Ideal Zero. Indeed it’s a grower, unveiling new details and immersing the listener in an increasingly enjoyable experience every time. My only other criticism is that Ideal Zero is relatively slow-paced. All five tracks are either midtempo or balladic. More variety (or least a couple faster numbers) would have been welcome changes of pace. Then again, you almost don’t notice the tempos because of the vitality injected into each track. You can hear it in every element and feel it as the tiniest sensation within.

So, I’m budging slightly on my "no-superhigh-rating-for-EPs" rule. Ideal Zero deserve it, though. They’ve crafted a unique rock sound and given it phoenix wings thanks to top-notch production and to Nicula’s intrepidity and eloquence. Not to mention four out of the five songs are earworms disguised as unassuming bits of art – and though they may drive you insane, you’ll want to listen to them over and over again. They’re just that terrific. Some rock and metal critics may fault Ideal Zero for being "poppy." But that shouldn’t matter when the final product is as inspired as this EP. As long as Ideal Zero add some strategic spice to their full-length album (which they recently started recording), they could become femme rock / metal’s newest force of nature.

8.75 / 10

Best Songs: "Beneath The Sun,"  "Free Again"

Highly recommended for fans of Evanescence, We Are The Fallen, Lacuna Coil, and The Birthday Massacre
Ideal Zero is available to purchase at the band’s Facebook store as well as on iTunes and Amazon.

 

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