Zeroking touts itself as an all-out rock and roll band, but there's more going on here than just that. Based in West Virginia, the band is heavily influenced by the rock and roll ideal of the West Coast, and uses that as a base to launch their curious and devil-may-care mix of rock, piano and brass (or a close facsimile to them,) and down home country twang.
The band's album, "Kings of Self Destruction," is the exact kind of record that not only deserves but must be played in the darkest, dingiest corner of the local down home bar, where the whole room smells of beer and the waitresses wear midriff-exposing tops and greet every customer, no matter how unscrupulous they may seem, with a wink and a pet name.
While there are many references to the South and the every day tribulations of the stereotype of country living, make no mistake; this is a rock album first and foremost, and that aspect is not up for negotiation. It also helps that half of the album ventures far from those themes, beginning with album opener "Dead Rock Star."
There are no allusions on this album to higher, more pretentious or more pandering forms of the genre, nor should there be; similar to Taking Dawn's "Time to Burn," Zeroking's album is a howitzer of all the deliciously boisterous qualities of rock. The only developmental part of "Kings of Self-Destruction" is that it gets gloriously dirtier and heavier as it goes along, culminating in the low-down grinding of the title track.
Nowhere is the variety of the album more prevalent then the dichotomy between songs like “Forget Vegas,” and “Black Friday.” The former song, early in the album, features some kind of synthesized or electric piano and bops along with an accessible, ready-for-radio poppy-ness. The latter, conversely, sludges forward with a slight distortion return, a mean streak and some guitar theatrics. While the “Forget Vegas” is a perfectly decent song, “Black Friday” is one of the album’s best (along with single “Girls of California,”) and shows not only the versatility of Zeroking, but the extent of their metal influences.
There is the usual smattering of heartfelt rock ballads on this record, and while not the album's best cuts, they are acceptable when taken as part of the album's total affect. The only one that’s truly groan-worthy is “Valentine.” I wish that the album proper ended with a stronger statement than the sentimental “Leaving Las Angeles.” Given the breed of rocking on the rest of the album, Zeroking could have brought more punch in this the final cut before the additions and bonuses started.
Worth mentioning are both versions of the song “Stone Cold Bitch.” The album cut, with the instruments plugged in, is a flighty but soiled affair that rips along through an easy, anthemic four minutes. The album also includes and acoustic cut of the same song, which comes across in a whole different light when played unplugged. The visceral chorus doesn’t quite pop in the same way, but the low tones of the guitar and rhythm section lend the song an earthy quality that makes it distinct.
Overall, this entire record is practically custom built for dive bars and strip clubs, where dancers can grind as they choose to the easy rhythms and dominant, snappy snare drum (note to my mom and my wife: NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW, OF COURSE.) Now, that also means that the effort is a little repetitive and might not sound as inspired outside of that setting. While not deficient in any area, Zeroking also may not fully stick to your ribs. Still, if you need an injection of good ole’ rock and roll, take Zeroking for a ride, and see what it does for you. You might be pleasantly surprised.