Fear No Empire – ‘Fear No Empire’

By Gem Rogers

Probably the last thing anyone expected from 2020 was for the worlds of political protest music and Zebrahead to collide – but it’s been a funny old year and, well, here we are. Bringing in Dan Palmer’s Death By Stereo bandmate and drummer Mike Cambra, half of the notoriously daft and eternally popular punk/rap/rock/ska band (vocalist/guitarist Matty Lewis is notably absent) have created Fear No Empire, a supergroup of sorts, borne out of the civil and social unrest that has permeated the last six months. Together they’ve crafted a six track self-titled EP in the hope of addressing these injustices, attacking it with all the fire and fury it rightly deserves.

This is, in effect, Zebrahead goes Rage Against The Machine, and if that sentence fills you with horror, then… well, fair enough. It’s not quite something we were anticipating writing either, but it’s also probably not quite what you think and, in a way, that’s sort of the problem. It’s all too often a cheap tribute to the masters of protest, finding its place musically but struggling to grasp the depth of more modern bands like Fever 333. Second track ‘Amplifier’ is pure Rage riffs that are undeniably enjoyable, but alongside a slightly jarring pronunciation of ‘bourgeoisie’ are clumsy rhymes and tired ideas that never really do more than scratch the surface.

One of the biggest issues is that this is an EP that tries incredibly hard to make salient and symbolic statements, and then sort of gives up halfway in order to scream “wear a fucking mask, you dumb fuck” (‘Super Spreader’). Entertaining enough, but it leaves you wondering just how seriously they’re actually taking their subject matter as they lapse into more their familiar Zebrahead approach. You can feel what they’re striving for here, but they don’t quite achieve their goal, and it’s a shame; musically, they have the chops to make this work. They’re no strangers to hip-hop – the work of Dan Palmer on guitar consistently hits the mark throughout, vocalist Ali Tabatabaee is as snappy as ever, and there’s no doubt that this EP has been motivated by sincere and powerful intentions – but perhaps in their haste to make a statement, the end result has fallen short, ultimately feeling hollow and forgettable.

If you’re already a fan of Zebrahead with a taste for a dash of rebellion, this is a release you won’t want to miss. For the rest of us? It’s worth a listen, and the topics addressed are certainly more than worth your time – just don’t expect these to be the songs that fuel your revolution.

GEM ROGERS

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