Review Summary: There's definitely some thunder in Zodiac's machine.
Saying that the seventies rock revival is going strong would be a severe understatement. From Graveyard’s highly anticipated third full-length Lights Out to Witchcraft’s excellent Legend, fans of the movement found plenty to tap their feet to, and it wasn’t just the fans, as both records were lauded by critics as well. While the vanguard kept on rocking, new, noteworthy bands rose out of utter obscurity into the ears of eager listeners at a staggering rate. With newcomers such as Kadavar and Troubled Horse, competition for the “best retro rock album of 2012” award was becoming tense. Here’s the thing, though: none of the bands mentioned previously earned that award. Charging through the gates of 70’s worship with commanding authority is the movement’s best-kept secret of the year, Zodiac, whose album, A Bit of Devil, rocks – really rocks.
One of the many impressive aspects of this dark horse album is that, despite being the band’s first, it doesn't feel like a debut; A Bit of Devil radiates a level of confidence that many bands never achieve during their careers, and this confidence is rightly earned when you look at the line-up, featuring Long Distance Calling’s Janosch Rathmer on percussion duty and Nick Van Delft, who, despite being a newcomer to the music scene, shows off some serious guitar work and vocal performances throughout the album. The second track, “Carnival,” has these two at their best, with Rathmer’s frenetic fills driving the chorus and Delft’s formidable soloing bringing the track to an exhilarating close. This isn't to say that the rest of the band should be marginalized – they play their parts to great effect, such as on the bluesy, acoustic-driven “Thunder,” where an infectious beat and bass line carry the track straight into your memory. “Thunder” also serves to show Delft’s vocals, which, while not exhibiting exceptional range, are undoubtedly rough and “stylish,” feeling genuine and true to the genre.
Unlike the bands mentioned previously, Zodiac sets itself apart by adopting a southern rock edge that echoes ZZ Top and the Allman Brothers Band, an aspect of the group’s sound that is found throughout the record. The opening riff of “Diamond Shoes” leads the listener for mere moments before exploding with the intensity of Texan heat. Track three, however, exemplifies Zodiac’s southern rock style with a smoking hot cover of ZZ Top’s “Blue Jean Blues,” which takes the classic blues number and injects it with 8ccs of hard rock energy. In a word, its killer.
The album’s four remaining tracks weren’t neglected for lack of interest or quality in the music, but for the sake of the review’s brevity. Frankly, most of the songs here could be drawn like straws and understandably be called a highlight, from the smashing title track to epic album closer, “Coming Home.” With Zodiac having dropped a hint for new songs coming next year, the seventies revival movement is all the more valuable to rock fans willing to travel back in time. For now, though, listeners can bob their heads in satisfaction, because A Bit of Devil is the year’s best retro rock release.