Tuesday 26 April 2022

Dark Ambient Review: Return to the Zombie Zone

Dark Ambient Review: Return to the Zombie Zone

Review By Casey Douglass

Return to the Zombie Zone Cover

Mundane anxieties are boring. Fantastical ones are exciting. That seems to be the general rule, speaking for myself at least. The same goes for dreams. Give me a “fleeing the monster” nightmare over a “being continuously late” anxiety dream any day. I mean any night. Trappa Skunk’s Return to the Zombie Zone is a jazzy, dark ambient, dungeon-synth album that’s based on just such a situation, one in which the plot follows someone heading from the countryside, into the city, and eventually, to the underground realm. There are zombies to avoid, wizardry, and chaos, and Trappa Skunk’s music gives us the soundtrack to this horror flick.

For me, Return to the Zombie Zone contained a quirky, upbeat sort of horror. Think The Simpsons’ Tree House of Horror mixed with elements of Big Trouble in Little China and The Walking Dead. There’s warmth here, with plucky whimsical rhythms and vocals, along with jazzy elements that add a kind of melancholy to the 80s horror atmosphere.

Ghost Town Blues is a great track that encapsulates some of these elements. It begins with plucked notes and a swelling drone, before harmonica-like tones set up a jaunty melody. There are some sweeping, ominous notes, but then things turn jaunty again. This alternating between the ominous and the cheerful continues, with added doses of buzzing, fuzzing rhythm, at one point ending with a sound similar to the Metal Gear Solid “brriiiiiing” that the guards emit when they spot you. A fun track that felt like I was on a bus journey, watching the strangeness of the town drifting ever past my window.

Another track that stood out for me was The Sewer. It opens with a kind of “police chase” feeling, the low growly notes meshing with higher blares and a scratchy beat. As the track continues, an organ-like tone makes it feel a little like being at the fun fair, with flurries of piano notes and moments of quiet hanging threat that almost bring things to a total stop. I can imagine the flashing lights of a cop car reflecting back from oozing brickwork as they race through a large sewer, the furtive denizens scurrying away like the rats that they share their home with. Another fun track.

A track that felt a little more sedate was Trailer Park. It begins with slow, warm electronic tones, and then enters a kind of “jazz lounge near closing time” feeling, piano-like notes tinkling alongside the deeper tones. A scuffed beat and some brassy tones join the melody. It feels whimsical too after the midpoint, when faster flurries of notes and chiming tones begin. This is a sad or mellow track, and for me, suggested a trailer park lit by faint moonlight, a park filled with strange creatures conducting their nightly business.

The final track that I wanted to mention is Unholy Temple of The Chaos Monks, because what would an apocalyptic landscape be like without religion showing up and making things far worse. This track opens with plucked notes and chant-like vocals, ones with a warbly quality behind them. There are chimes, gongs and organ-like tones, and both male and female chants, setting up the impression of a candle-lit space of worship, one rife with dark happenings and sinister gods. An ominous, apocalyptic track.

Return to the Zombie Zone is a fun jaunt through a dangerous environment. While I like my music more dark ambient than anything else, I appreciated the dark whimsy and the way that certain of the tracks brought to mind various retro horror movies or atmospheres. I also suspect that the sequence of events hinted at by the track titles would make an excellent framework for a table-top gaming session, if put in the hands of a competent game master.

Visit the Return to the Zombie Zone page on Bandcamp for more information. Trappa Skunk has also posted the whole album on YouTube which you can check out below: 

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Return to the Zombie Zone

Album Artist: Trappa Skunk

Released: 24 March 2022