Even though it’s been almost ten years since the public first heard about Zach de la Rocha working on solo material, fans shouldn’t necessarily worry that his first offering after Rage Against The Machine is an EP. Containing five songs and clocking-in at just over 20 minutes, the self-titled debut from One Day As A Lion, de la Rocha’s new two-man group with drummer Jon Theodore, packs a punch and reminds listeners of how wonderfully effective the oft-overlooked mini-album format can be.
Rage fans will be happy to know that de la Rocha doesn’t veer far from what we’re already familiar with, but that he does bring some new elements to the table. For starters, those riffs and noises that sound like a guitarist imitating the trademark style of Rage’s Tom Morello are actually de la Rocha himself playing keyboards. Next, de la Rocha actually sings on a three of the tunes, which doesn’t represent the full-on reinvention that one might expect, but in fact fits quite naturally into his established flow while providing some much-needed spice.
On paper, de la Rocha’s lyrics contain lots of flash imagery but reveal little about his actual message. That he connected so well with audiences in Rage shows just how invigorating his delivery truly is. That he makes it sound fresh here shows how much he’s still got left in the tank. With sounds consisting entirely of keyboards, drums, and vocals, the music sounds rich and airy and dense and pumped full of room vibe courtesy of Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato, who mixes the album in a way that immediately evokes his sonic sculpting of the Beasties’ classic “So What’Cha Want.”
Like Rage, de la Rocha and Theodore clearly have limits. They even begin to repeat themselves by the fourth track. But overall, this is very spirited music that hopefully indicates what’s to come from an artist who’s been sitting on the sidelines overshadowed by his legacy with Rage. One Day As A Lion proves that, at least for now, he hasn’t gotten left behind or sunk under the weight of the iconic sound he helped invent.
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-- Saby Reyes-Kulkarn