Zeroth Ones are a three-piece instrumental outfit hailing from Columbus, Ohio and probably a bunch of science nerds. Don’t get me wrong, I say that with the utmost respect. I’m just going based on the evidence at hand. The name itself, Zeroth Ones, refers to the Zeroth law of thermodynamics. They`re self-proclaimed as Instrumental Sci-Fi Post Rock and quote Neil deGrasse Tyson in their bio. Alright, I can totally get behind this concept. I listened to the record, Are Always Watching and heard elements of Doom, Post Rock, Stoner Metal and 70s rock. In theory, it should have been a recipe for something mind-blowing. Spoiler alert – it was not.
I sort of already knew something was up when I listened to the first track, “Bucket Wheel Excavator.” It initially started off alright, with a keyboard melody reminiscent of a horror-inspired Uncle Acid track. Then it just keeps going for an unnecessarily long time. At about 1:40, things pick up a little with something I could only describe as a messy wave of drums, bass, and guitar. Then it slows down again. This formula is repeated ad-nauseam for six minutes.
I had hoped that the next few tracks, “Dated Tech” and “Moonville Tunnel” would turn the tide, but they did not. I find myself trying to figure out what this band is trying to sound like. Are they more of a classic rock band? Experimental? Doom? Art Rock? The music goes in such strange places at the snap of a finger. And I’m all for experimentation, but it gets lost in the ether in songs that sound like they were recorded in a large vacuum tube at times.
But, let me be fair. It wasn’t all bad. “Murmur” was a beautiful, softer track that was carried by a somewhat sporadic and eclectic sounding bass line that was really cool. “Devil in Exile” is the best track on the record, with its Sabbath-inspired spooky-sounding groove and some rather hard-hitting riffs. On the final track, “Cicadas,” it sounds as if the band had finally found some cohesion in their experimentation and delivered a track that was strange and gloomy, yet somehow incredibly captivating.
The quote that Zeroth Ones uses in their bio from Neil deGrasse Tyson is “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” Well, I guess I’ll just have to live with the fact that Are Always Watching is also under no obligation to make sense to me. I respect these three guys for going out there and putting their art out into the world. I tried my hardest to like it. I really did. But this one missed the mark for me. But as always, I implore you to give it a listen. Perhaps you’ll hear something that I do not.
Written by Dominic Abate
*edited by Mike Milito