Zulu: A New Tomorrow Album Review

The Zulus have no time to lose. In the five-second interval after “Africa,” the reverent orchestral introduction to their debut album a new tomorrow, but before the hard-hitting buzz of down-tuned, power chords of “For Sista Humphrey,” the Los Angeles-based powerviolence quintet poses one quick question: “Ayo, it’s Zulu in this bitch, what y’all niggas on?” The music progresses, anchored by drummer Christine Cadette and bassist Satchel Brown, who back up a puffing riff played by guitarists Braxton Marcellous and Dez Yusuf. Then comes a death metal snarl from vocalist Anaiah Lei, and the band’s debut full-length. a new tomorrow takes off on a trajectory that cannot be predicted or contained.

Lei is a multi-instrumentalist who started out as a teenager with his brother Mikaiah Lei in the indie rock band The Bots and went on to play in California punk bands DARE and Culture Abuse. He founded Zulu in 2018. First two EPs, 2019 Our day will come and 2020 My People… Hold on, solidified the band’s signature style: blastbeats and mosh-worthy grooves injected with samples of classic soul and reggae artists singing about the empowered black community. If the PEs were experimental studies, then a new tomorrow He holds nothing back, sounds confident and all-encompassing. The record has a mind and memory that examines every angle of black heritage while working to define the future without fear or conflict.

In a recent interview with NPR, Lei expressed his disinterest in writing lyrics that only address suffering. “When people think of the pain of exclusion, they think of black people. And then we end up getting tokenized one way or another,” she said. a new tomorrow confront prejudice, alienation, and anger on their own terms. “52 Fatal Blows”, updated from Our day will come, is a hardcore two-stepper on racial injustice: “I’ve done nothing/I just exist/Don’t face/I know you want to kill me.” The lyrics are direct and flowing, even on softer tracks like “Crème de Cassis,” a spoken critique of a nation that obsesses over black pain without providing space to celebrate its resilience. “Why should I only share our fight/When our blackness is so much more?” asks vocalist Aleisia Miller about Precious Tucker’s piano accompaniment. “We are favored by the sun from the moment we are created.”

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The dynamic force of power and violence is not the loudest part of a new tomorrow: It’s the album’s way of juxtaposing mud and squeals with songs performed in styles popularized by blacks. Sometimes it’s poignant and reverent, like the tearful little sentences of the voice-overs asking “Should I just share my pain?” in the interlude of the middle of the album of the same title. The Zulus are more confrontational in this mode, revealing vulnerability while challenging hardcore purists to try to enforce a distinction between Lei’s guttural roar of protest on “Music to Driveby” and Curtis Mayfield’s sampled croon that follows. By refusing to be flattened, Zulu makes it clear that working within genre lines is far less meaningful than an engagement with black music history, black love, and black power.

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