Earlier this year I, like so many, finally succumbed to Covid. I have suffered from cognitive difficulties ever since, and my ability to put words together to describe the music I listen to became a Sisyphean task. My reviewing slowed, then ceased completely. It’s been a hard route to get to the stage of being able to write this, but I’ve made a concerted effort today to finally complete one of my many unfinished reviews, it being World Mental Health Day, which seems appropriate for finally managing to get back on the bike. It also seems appropriate that the album I’m reviewing is one that seems to me to be representative of the overcoming of a mental struggle. Perhaps this is merely my own reading, rather than the band’s intent, but because this is the way I’ve chosen to interpret it, 0=1 by Ukrainians Dreadnought in the Pond, has kept me afloat while I’ve been floundering. There have been many albums I’ve listened to this year, but few which I’ve returned to again and again. This is one of those, and is definitely one of my favourite releases from the turbulent year that is 2021.
0=1 seeks to take Joseph Campbell’s famous text The Hero With a Thousand Faces and put it to music. Even if that has been done before (Jim Morrison being a famous example) that doesn’t matter, and is surely the point. After all, Campbell’s idea of a meta-narrative suggests that more works fulfil it than not. From Homer and Virgil, to Star Wars and Watership Down, the thousand-faced Hero is there – and in the case of the latter two, explicitly so as their creators overtly acknowledge Campbell. Watership Down especially comes to mind, because every time I listen to 0=1, I feel like I’m falling down a rabbit hole. As Grace Slick warned, if you go chasing rabbits, you know you’re going to fall. And goodness knows, this year my logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. 0=1 takes the ’70s psychedelia of Jim and Grace and marries it to some deep and heavy Tool-like stylings (though they never sound at all like Tool to me, so much as bands like Peach/Suns of the Tundra and The Osiris Club), often accompanied by a spacey, cosmic Krautrock vibe, and a flirtation with noise, grunge and stoner sounds. All in all, this is a quite original sounding trio (and yes, this sheer wall of sound is created by just a trio) who have released an adventurous and experimental debut album that I can’t seem to get enough of.
The album begins, as every hero’s must according to Campbell’s monomyth, in the ordinary world. Prelude sets the scene, and not just lyrically but musically too. It’s a grand opening statement, but one which belies just how great a turmoil the protagonist is about to face. The tempo increases with Like Butterflies, “faster and faster, stranger and stranger”, as the dramatic confrontation approaches. The butterflies are not in the stomach, though, but the head. This is an aural portrait of mental torment. The ride before the fall, perhaps? Again, I stress this is merely my own interpretation, but the lyrics are oblique enough to allow it, and it does seem that this Hero’s journey occurs in the protagonist’s mind. Thus The Battle, one of my favourite tracks from the album, is a war waged in his own head. Variations on a theme, a dream, a nightmare – as so much is made from one repetitive motif. This song is so simple, yet has so much going on. It blows my mind every time I hear it. It’s brutal and violent and ugly and miserable, and I love it. The sheer desperation and horror of the delivery of the final lyrics is amazing, as it all falls away.
On the Bottom feels like the inevitable result of what’s left after The Battle. When all the wars have been waged, and the battlefield has fallen horribly silent. The abject melancholy of the scene is laid even barer when the wailing vocals begin. The tortured delivery leaves no doubt that the protagonist has reached their nadir, as wave after wave of crushing misery comes down in screams and squalls of dissonance and discord, pounding the listener down to the bottom with our Hero. This is another favourite track, and indeed the mid-section of the album is so incredibly strong, as rounding out my top three is the following When You Pass Away, an instrumental tour-de-force that is also the album’s longest track, yet not once does it come close to overstaying its welcome. Campbell’s monomyth insists on either a lyrical or metaphorical death and resurrection, so of course this track title is hardly unexpected. What’s perhaps unexpected is how upbeat it is – but then, after the misery of On the Bottom, I guess anything would sound upbeat. There are vocals near the end of this track, but they are so deep in the mix they function more as one more instrument than anything actually lyrical. After all, when you pass away, words lose all meaning, because nothing has meaning.
But wait – inhale, exhale, there is still life, and Breathe beats into being, at first tentatively, and then with vigour. We’ve broken on through to the other side. Breath by breath, week by week, day to day, hour to hour, our Hero sees through time. The protagonist was covered by night, but the day destroys the night, night divides the day, 0=1. By way of another scorching instrumental, Hero, we come to Enlightenment. I absolutely love the introduction of this song, reminiscent of Soundgarden circa Down on the Upside (my favourite album from the band), before the song explodes into its full form. And it’s a very different sound from anything else that has been heard so far. Resurrection and rebirth indeed – as this is definitely a new incarnation of our Hero. It is effectively the final song of the album, as the Outro (as beautiful as it is) is merely the drawing of the circle. And what a final song it is! It’s glorious and triumphant. Though of course there is the Outro to remind us that this is circular. I love the way the Outro does bring us back to the beginning though, as it sounds very much like the backwards sounding intro to Prelude. It has a beautiful, yet peculiar, tone that makes me think of hubris, and the inevitable cyclical nature of this album, and of life, death and rebirth. 0=1
One final note, though it has nothing to do with the music: I absolutely love the cover art for this album, created by guitarist and vocalist Remco Tzukerman. Definitely one of my favourite album covers ever, and like so much of the music on 0=1, deceptive in its apparent simplicity. The sheer amount of detail hidden in the art and the music allows new discoveries each time one revisits either.
01. Prelude (4:51)
02. Like Butterflies (4:40)
03. The Battle (6:48)
04. On the Bottom (5:26)
05. When You Pass Away (10:04)
06. Breathe (5:13)
07. Hero (4:38)
08. Enlightenment (5:52)
09. Outro (1:15)
Total Time – 48:47
Remco Tzukerman – Guitars, Vocals
Dmytro Pishko – Bass, Vocals
Roma Kuz – Drums
Record Label: Robustfellow ( )
Country of Origin: Ukraine
Date of Release: 19th May 2021
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