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ZO2 Begin Again

By George Dionne, Podcaster
Monday, January 8, 2024 @ 12:26 AM

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Begin Again

Kivel Records

After a 14 year hiatus, New York rockers ZO2 are back with their latest 2CD-27 track collection Begin Again. The album features brand new tracks and unreleased gems that bridge the gap between ZO2's past and where they are heading.

I can't say I was familiar with ZO2 prior to being assigned this release for review. The band formed in 2003 when brothers Paul and David Zablidowsky (the "Z brothers") teamed up with drummer Joey Cassata. As they pursued their rockstar dreams by night as ZO2, the power trio played children's parties to pay the bills in the daylight hours.

ZO2 released Tuesdays & Thursdays in 2004, Ain't It Beautiful in 2007, and Casino Logic in 2009. In addition to playing kids parties, and writing, recording, and performing with ZO2, bassist David Z was a member of one of the first touring versions of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA.

David Z also performed and recorded with Jeff Scott Soto under the S.O.T.O. banner for the 2016 release Divak and 2019 release Origami (fantastic album!). David Z joined ADRENALINE MOB in 2011 for the release of their third studio album We The People.

On July 14, 2017, while the band was pulled over on the side of the road to fix a flat tire, they were struck by a tractor trailer truck that sadly killed David Zablidowsky and injured several other members of the band and crew.

Out of this tragedy, the David Z Foundation was formed by his brother Paul to help install a passion for music for underprivileged children by providing education opportunities, collaborations with instruct professionals, and funding for academic programs across the country and internationally.

ZO2 reformed in recent years and began performing live again with Sean McNabb (DOKKEN,GREAT WHITE, HOUSE OF LORDS) on bass. Their latest album Begin Again was released on CD (no streaming or vinyl), on December 5, 2023 through Kivel Records. There was not much press material available to me with this release, such as what is new material and what was unreleased. I can only assume the second disc is the unreleased music. It is also unclear if the late David Z appears on any of the tracks.

The band describes the album as "closing the chapter on the past while paying homage to the legacy that has defined them." As well as, "a way to honor the memory of David Z and to continue the music legacy we built together."

Disc 1 kicks off with a twangy little guitar lick that leads to some punchy distortion on "Begin Again". The chorus is dominated by stellar three part harmonies. Paul Z's melodic yet gritty vocals are the main vocal point of "Temptation". His guitar licks are repetitive but memorable. Joey Cassata's drum work on "Living Now" cannot be ignored. The song has quite the Hard Rock swagger to it.

"Dirty Water" harkens back to that mid to late nineties grunge sound. The track is on the slow side, but far from a ballad. "Isolate" exhibits a heavy Blues vibe, accented by a soulful vocal delivery. David Z channels his inner Anthony Kiedis/Chris Cornell with his performance on the down tuned track "She Believes".

It's Sean Mcnabb's turn in the spotlight with his infectious bass grooves on "If You See Kay". The song is reminiscent of a lost AEROSMITH track from the mid-'70s and is loaded with double entendres. ZO2 takes on Funk Rock with the head bouncing track "Get Up Now". "Infinity Rising" is a mid-tempo track stacked with lots of fuzz and melody. I'm not sure Paul Z is singing this one, as the vocals are drastically different.

Disc 2 kicks off with the "Z Rock Theme". Back in 2008 and 2009, members of ZO2 were part of a semi-scripted reality show on IFC that revolved around three friends that lived double lives as a hard partying Rock band, while also secretly performing at children's parties. Sound familiar?

"A MIllion Pieces" is a mid-tempo gritty rocker. "I Will Be Alright" is a proper ballad backed by orchestration and faint guitars that build to the track's emotional peak. "Heart Of Confusion" stays in ballad territory, but adds bluesy underscore to it. Paul Z's guitar solo is just as soulful as his lyrical delivery.

"That's What's Up" channels RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS with a mix of spoken lyrics and driving bass riffs. The guitars are just as intense. "All Hell's Breaking Loose" uses the same formula, but once was enough honestly. It's likely these tracks came from a certain time period that focuses on this particular sound.

"Complicated", "One Love" and "Live Today" find ZO2 trying to replicate the GOO GOO DOLLS. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. ZO2 closes out this collection with a live version of their ZZ TOP cover of "Waitin' For the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago".

There is A LOT of music to digest on Begin Again. I would suggest that you consume the collection in sessions and not all at once. ZO2 leaves no Rock sub-genre unused throughout these 27 songs, and they excel no matter the style they chose.

Disc 1 is the meat and potatoes of Begin Again. Disc 2 has its moments of greatness, but there is certainly material that was unused in years past for a reason. Consumers will get the most ZO2 bang-for-the-buck with this collection, as well as a glimpse into their past and future.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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