Sparta marks a new beginning for NYC’s Psalm Zeroon February 21, 2020 at 11:53 pm

Psalm Zero have been playing a hybrid form of industrial metal informed by the noisier side of dark and electronic music since forming in New York in 2012. Originally the duo of multi-instrumentalist Charlie Looker (a classical composer and cofounder of experimental bands Extra Life and Zs) and guitarist Andrew Hock, the group showcased synth-heavy avant-rock compositions on their first two albums, 2014’s The Drain and 2016’s Stranger to Violence (both on Profound Lore). But shortly after the release of Stranger to Violence, Looker parted ways with Hock after Hock was accused of sexual assault. That decision forced Looker to cancel several previously scheduled tour dates, but he retained the Psalm Zero name and continued to write material for the band while occasionally collaborating with friends. The band’s new album, Sparta (on Looker’s Last Things imprint), features bassist Ron Varod and drummer Keith Abrams, known for their work with New York avant-garde/progressive metal group Kayo Dot (who headline this tour in support of their own new full-length, Blasphemy). Sparta feels more clear-hearted and intentional than Psalm Zero’s earlier records, perhaps as a result of Looker reassessing his approach after Hock’s departure. Whatever the reason, Sparta is an evolution: though the band’s roots in industrial metal and darkwave are still perceptible, a stronger sense of storytelling comes through on tracks such as “Return to Stone” (with guest vocals from Kristin Hayer, aka Lingua Ignota) and “Animal Outside.” Looker’s earnest-sounding singing on the latter recall Violator-era Dave Gahan, and make me wonder if this could’ve been an alternative-pop chart hit had it been released in 1990. It seems likely that Psalm Zero are just going to grow from here, so this show is a good chance to see them on their way up. v

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