Zach De la Rocha and Jon Theodore have made an album that’s so good it hurts. In fact let me rephrase that. They’ve made an album that’s good enough to hurt. You can feel the pain and anger in every note, every sound, every breath.
Sonically, One Day As A Lion is not a departure from Theodore or De La Rocha’s previous projects. Theodore’s drums could just as well fit into a later Mars Volta album and Zach De La Rocha sounds like he could still be singing for Rage Against the Machine. This is not a criticism, but rather a compliment. It’s an incredible feat that 8 years after Rage Against the Machine, Zach De La Rocha is still has the gift of being brutally truthful and genuinely angry. Theodore has managed to stay fresh conceptually and, if anything, has cultivated the driving energy of his earlier work. One factor that is brand new is De La Rocha’s synth playing. His long, sustained, distorted tones compliment his vocals perfectly, giving the record a foundation that makes Theodore’s syncopation and odd time signatures possible.
You’d think that One Day As A Lion would sound empty being only a two-piece and you’d be right. Not empty in the sense that it’s lacking anything, but empty in a way that feels desolate and bare. Like the veneer has been ripped off and all that’s left is the scarred and rotten wood underneath. The first three tracks of this EP sound like this. Like it’s all hopeless, they tell us the world is fucked and this is why. But In the last two tracks there’s a subtle change. They still don’t offer a path to reconciliation but they point at a method that could help. In “If You Fear Dying” Zach De La Rocha tells, or maybe threatens, us not to be afraid:
“Time is coming,
Rising like the dawn of a red sun,
If you fear dying then you’re already dead.”
This is a distinct departure, from the beginning of the record. He’s not letting us know what’s wrong, he telling us we’ve got a part in it.
That’s why this album hurts. The first three tracks you simply agree with what De La Rocha is saying, basically that there are problems with our country and our system. However, by the fourth you understand that whatever you feel is wrong with this country isn’t just a condition, it’s a result of what we’re doing, and no one is innocent.
So what can we do? Well, It’s written there in big block letters across the album cover, but in case you missed that it’s also one of the last lines on the record. “One Day, I say today, we live as a lion.”
LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org