It’s important to dig deep into inspirational resources when trying to create a vintage sound. That’s exactly what Summerside, Prince Edward Island band Chaotically Zen did on their first record. A year of writing and three days of recording at Joel Plaskett’s New Scotland Yard studio in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia culminated in the debut LP Liquid Diet.
On the surface, the album is a quality offering of modern blues-rock . The record jams along at mid-tempo, with plenty of stop-n-go breaks for guitar and drum fills, all the while draped in keyboards and strings. But Liquid Diet has more than one layer to it. The album is atmospheric in a sense that it waltzes along like a moonlight stroll. It’s not all peace and quiet though; there’s plenty of dynamic to build up the songs and bring them back down to earth.
The lyrical content on Liquid Diet bounces back and forth between political commentary, a common subject matter for popular bands in the 60’s and 70’s, and heartfelt ballads that reach out to anonymous characters. While the band is most commonly compared to The Doors, similarities emerge with other bands throughout the album, albeit temporarily. For instance, the tender “Lullaby” could have been an outtake from REM’s Automatic For The People. The social awareness on tracks such as “Government Speed” and “Freedom” are reminiscent of the playful lyrical delivery on Rodriguez’s 1970 lost-and-found classic Cold Fact. Regardless, Keyboardist Lex Law channels his inner Ray Manzarek throughout the album, while vocalist Cory Ellis punches through track after track with his signature gravelly wail, not unlike a certain Jim Morrison.
An hour-plus run time can be a blessing and a burden for many bands. While it showcases the band’s extensive songwriting resources, Liquid Diet has its moments where it sounds unnecessarily formulaic. Tracks like “No Time” and “Ode To A Woman” have a certain untapped potential about them that is emphasized when the majority of the record follows a relative jam-like pattern. Despite this, Chaotically Zen have managed to inject passion and emotion into every one of their songs to some degree, resulting in a valiant effort to create the quintessential modern blues-rock album.
The title Liquid Diet is somewhat symbolic of the material on Chaotically Zen’s first LP. There are meaty bits of rock and blues, but ultimately the album is easy to digest. Regardless, Chaotically Zen show an abundance of potential on this release.
Chris Dowbiggin is a graduate of broadcast journalism at Sheridan College. Besides Ultimate Frisbee, his true passions lie in his musings on music and pop culture. You can follow him on twitter here.