I believe in the analog synthesizer, Chris Squire's "Fish" bass, and unapologetic prog pretension. I believe that zombies don't run; they lumber. I believe the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later is self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment mandating the preservation of Monroeville Mall exactly as it appeared in the original Dawn of the Dead. And I believe in long, slow, deep, wet, brutal dismemberment scenes that seem to go on for three days.
Apologies to Kevin Costner (speaking of the living dead . . . ) for bastardizing his Bull Durham monologue, but I don't know any other way to put it—I'm a zombie guy, specifically a George Romero zombie guy, and I have bored the will to breathe out of people by meticulously outlining the allegorical subtext of his Dead series. You will not be subjected to that torment; I only ask that you log in to your late-'70s/early-'80s horror database and recall the half-unsettling, half-goofy, all-outlandish synth scores to the films of Romero, John Carpenter, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci. The soundtrack-exclusive Italian quartet Goblin, composer Fabio Frizzi, and Carpenter himself were responsible for the most memorable bleeps, blarps, and blorps; the union of wacky yet somehow foreboding instrumentation and unhinged, feral gore was truly a phenomenon exclusive to its time.
Eclectic Pittsburgh-bred duo Zombi are doing everything in their power to reanimate those dark days. Many a (metal)head turned upon their signing to Relapse, among the country's most renowned and reliable independent extreme labels, but in retrospect it's hard to imagine more appropriate neighbors for these art-damaged gorelords than Unsane, Necrophagist, Skinless, and Suffocation. In the last eight months, guitarist/bassist/synth geek Steve Moore and drummer/synth geek A.E. Paterra released their Carl Sagan– inspired, full-length debut, Cosmos, bolted from Romero's birthplace to the even chillier confines of Chicago, and by many accounts stole the night at Relapse's SXSW showcase in Austin. With the Mars Volta reintroducing prog to a mass audience and a recent spate of popular (if largely inferior) zombie flicks like the Resident Evil series, Shaun of the Dead, and the Dawn of the Dead remake, are the tumblers aligning for Zombi to break out of their highly specialized niche?
"A few weeks ago, that thought crossed my mind," Paterra muses from the van, en route to St. Louis. "With Mars Volta becoming as big as they did, I had a good feeling that maybe bands were going to start referencing old Crimson and Yes, more so than they do now. I don't know if it's developed, because we've been playing for three or four years and I haven't noticed anything yet. But the past three days on this tour have been really, really well attended and everybody's been very receptive. If that's a sign of things to come . . . "
So far, Zombi have done a stand-up job of emulating Goblin, not just in tone and tenor, but also in securing soundtrack work for a handful of indie horror films; quality control may be an issue, of course, as Moore and Paterra aren't quite at the point where they can demand scripts beforehand. In the interim, they're finally touring outside of Pennsylvania and hooking up with like-minded avant-instrumentalists in Pelican and the Fucking Champs. Most importantly—and interestingly—Zombi are 100 percent earnest about their work, and shudder at being perceived as ironic or retro.
"We were definitely worried about that, especially with the name," Paterra confesses. "We've had a few conversations about it, and basically, it all comes down to the music. As long as we keep writing things we're proud of, other people will see that as well and not take us as a kitsch band.
"Right now, I can't think of anyone that's doing anything remotely close to what we're doing. The majority of the music we listened to when we were younger was all from that era. We were just listening to the Halloween III soundtrack the other day. It was disappointing for both of us that we couldn't really find that anywhere. It's great that we got together because I don't know what I would have done otherwise."
Zombi play El Corazon with ASVA, Point Line Plane, and the Building Press at 8 p.m. Thurs., April 14. $8.