L.A.’s Zig Zags have thus far managed to escape me, despite a dizzying number of releases since their 2011 inception. At last count, there’s upwards of a dozen between LPs, EPs, singles, and splits. California has birthed its share of thrash titans and the prolific three-piece have clearly absorbed the foundations laid decades ago, affixing their own twisted addition. It’s almost unfortunate that I stumbled upon “Punk Fucking Metal,” the lead single from their upcoming LP, as I’ll be reduced to a drooling mess of anticipation until it’s May 5th street date.
Currently signed to RidingEasy Records, home to Warish, Satan’s Satyrs, R.I.P., Salem’s Pot, and Hell Fire; Zig Zags wade through the shroud of sativa (Is that a thing? I don’t smoke pot) hanging in the air. Housed in Hermosa Beach, they occupy a lane I rarely if ever swerve into. Though they peddle the highest (pun intended) quality slabs of doom, psych, metal, and rock, I’m altogether unfamiliar with the desert sessions laid down by the likes of most Sabbathian worship. Zig Zags are an entirely different proposition and their full length, They’ll Never Take Us Alive, can’t come soon enough.
Mere seconds into the aptly titled track, the Kings of the Big Four’s (this isn’t a debate) Kill ‘Em All is all over the place. Far from cribbing notes, the reference points are the perfect melding of first wave thrash, NWOBHM twin-guitar heroics, and a punk ethos that keeps the corners ragged and furious. In keeping with that genre-defining classic, there’s a youthful desperation in the echoey “Hetfield-isms” on J. Maheu’s lead vocals. There’s a clear through line from Zig Zags to split-release partners The Shrine, labelmates The Death Wheelers, or early ‘oughts Saviours. Yet, true to their namesake, you won’t catch these West Coast punks walking a straight line, instead you’ll catch them sidestepping classification.
As much as you’re sure to find worn copies of Masters of —or Puppets, for that matter—in their clambaked jam van, there’s an undeniable punk rock backbone that informs their attack.
“Punk Fucking Metal” aside, their prior albums found ample room to fit nods to band favorites Dead Moon and (my personal favorite) the Wipers. Zig Zags ditch the austere vibes of the latter in exchange for the celebratory looseness of the former, eschewing overt seriousness lest we forget music is a fucking party, man. Zigging where you’d expect a zag, what’d you expect from a band giving love to both Lip Cream and Voivod in promo pics?!
Opening with a riff you’ve definitely/probably/haven’t actually heard before, “Punk Fucking Metal” is a fitting mission statement from a band at the absolute peak of their powers. 2018 and beyond is a killer time for crossover, what with Power Trip, Red Death, Enforced, Foreseen, Mindforce, and Primal Rite. Zig Zags, to me, conjur the same spirits as Annihilation Time. Zig Zags split the difference between Sabbath and Flag, maintaining the “blackened” parts of both and injecting it with the frenzy of Show No Mercy-era Slayer.
There are moments when it sounds as if I’m playing a Beastmaker or Uncle Acid full-length at 45rpm. This convergence of influences has allowed them to share stages with acts as diverse as Unsane, The Spits, The Obsessed, Red Fang, Wrong, and Reigning Sound to name but a fraction of ‘em. There’s a fuzz to their breakneck thrash that feels uniquely them.The band flexes chops honed from years penning desert thrash, perfectly and crisply captured by an equally organic sound that feels both vintage and tomorrow.That they are but a triumvirate is a continued source of awe for me, as they muster an appropriately ungodly racket. At just a nudge over four minutes, this is essentially fucking prog rock for someone like me, but I found myself awaiting the next killer bridge or demonically catchy verse. If this is any indication, the LP looks to be a monster.
I’d be remiss not to mention the rolling papers of which I’d erroneously aligned their band name with. Though apparently the origin actually namechecks an “off” brand of shoes, it’d also be irresponsible not to report that the record label does, indeed, sell rolling papers. I don’t get high, but Zig Zags will fuck you up enough on their own, the triumphant “Punk Fucking Metal” is glorious enough to elevate to an altered state all its own. Calling all thrashers, heshers, stoners, punks, metalheads, and high top-wearing crossover obsessives, the time is ‘nigh. Get on this.
They'll Never Take Us Alive will hit stores on May 10 via RidingEasy Records and can be pre-ordered now.
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