Zilched- Earthly Delights (Album Review)

Aug. 11, 2023


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Detroit’s Chloe Drallos has been writing music under the name Zilched since 2017, and following an EP and other singles she released the appropriately named DOOMPOP in 2020.  Exploring elements of shoegaze, alternative rock, and everything in between with a noticeably darker and gloomier slant, Zilched had plenty to offer listeners that enjoyed fuzzed out guitars and dreary yet inviting atmosphere.  Three years later Drallos is back with Earthly Delights, and there have been some noticeable shifts to her approach.  The sound is much fuller and emphasizes melodies that wash over you compared to the more stripped-down approach of its predecessor, while the writing pulls in even more influences from across the alternative spectrum.  It still has some rougher edges that hold some of the moments back, but as a whole Earthly Delights offers a lot of nostalgia while still feeling fresh.

There’s a lot of 90s revival happening in a wide spectrum of rock related genres right now, but Zilched is one of the few who doesn’t feel like they’re adhering to one specific template and then calling it today.  The songs on Earthly Delights capture a lot of that classic 90s sound, whether it be the crunchier guitars of grunge, the fuzzed-out guitars and feedback of shoegaze, or the light and airer melodies of the singer/songwriter scene from that decade.  Wrap all that up in some pop hooks and some dips into gothic doom and gloom, and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this one.  It makes a very strong first impression too, as “The Flood”, “Out of the Blue”, and Strike Gently” all offer some absorbing hooks while showcasing different sides of Zilched’s sound.  “The Flood” has a more jangly melody and a huge chorus that washes over you with a warm and inviting approach, while “Out of the Blue” has a slightly rougher exterior that brings more grunge to mind.  Later tracks play around with this formula, sometimes upping the noise level a bit more while others go for much softer and pop oriented writing that is still wrapped up in an alternative vibe.  Admittedly the second half of Earthly Delights doesn’t quite stand out as much on a song to song basis compared to the first, especially considering how strong those first three tracks are, but I do like the faster moving and almost post punk rhythms of “A Valentine”.  The slower “The Rosy Crucifix” also feels like it drags on for a bit too long at just over six minutes, which does derail a bit of the energy.  But even with these flaws, I’ve still found myself drawn back to Zilched’s take on everything alternative, as when it hits its peaks the fusion of soaring hooks and a noisier exterior the results are stunning.

Drallos’ vocals flow naturally alongside the instrumentation, and she’s able to move seamlessly from more fragile sounding singing over to a more powerful range that soars over the recording.  Songs like “Out of the Blue” and “Into Black (Honey)” remind me of more recent singer/songwriters like Emma Ruth Rundle, but some of the other material brings a slew of artists from the 80s and 90s to mind.  There’s quite a bit of variety to the vocal work, and this works to Zilched’s favor.  Sometimes there’s a drearier shoegaze vibe where layers of singing intertwine alongside the feedback laden guitars, while others take a more direct approach to the vocals a la pop rock.  “(You Love) The Tragedy” sticks out in a bad way though, as around the halfway point one of the harmonizing pitches gets out of tune and stays there until the end of the song.  It takes away from what would otherwise be a strong tune, but thankfully it’s an isolated occurrence and the other tracks don’t run into this issue.

Zilched has gone for a fuller sound on album number two, removing some of the bedroom alternative feelings of its debut in favor of something that sounds closer to what you might hear on-stage.  At the same time, Drallos has branched out further and pulled in some additional influences that capture the spectrum of alternative rock.  Admittedly the strongest and most memorable moments are stacked towards the beginning, and even with the diverse influences things do fall into a bit of a pattern on the second half.  But when Drallos nails it Zilched will make you want to hit the repeat button and get lost in those warm and dreary melodies.  It does seem like there’s still some room for additional refinement and experimentation in the coming years, but Zilched is definitely an act to keep your eye on as there’s a solid foundation to build off of.  Earthly Delights is available from Young Heavy Souls.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg