Nika Roza Danilova, better known as Zola Jesus, returned to her native woods of Wisconsin, built a house mere steps away from her semi-dilapidated childhood tree-fort and watched it slowly give itself back to the earth while raising her sixth offering in ‘Okovi’. Over the course of what she describes as “a profound meditation on loss and reconciliation”, Danilova sunk into the thickness of her own hostage-like ties to the past – eventually surfacing with a barbed sonic artifact that not only defies trauma, but holds a confident command over it. Much like the Jesse Draxler-designed face of ‘Okovi’, Hummel’s artistic fearlessness penetrates blackened, mask-abstraction – cries of rebirth sharpening the blood-flow. “In the static, you are reborn.”

‘It’s Not Over’ reached out from beneath the waves of 2014’s ‘Taiga’, and saw Zola Jesus concluding the foaling effort with the admittance that she can no longer “push it all away”. ‘Doma’, meaning ‘at home’ in Russian, acts as a dream-gate into the abyss of ‘Okovi’, and just as the translation suggests, Danilova willingly gives into the blackness that couldn’t be held back 3-years prior – choosing to crawl across the hot coals of her twilight-hour, instead of running from it. Written during what Danilova calls her “darkest time”, ‘Wiseblood’ sees metallic minimalism hiding in the shadows of Zola Jesus’ dominating vocal presence. Sharp and wounding, the mantric-effort targets the living-dead – ruled by directionlessness and pain, where the emotionally punishing ‘Witness’ sits at the core of ‘Okovi’ – strings in-mourning keeping the knife from those held within the grip of themselves. Throughout the album, Danilova is constantly challenging the void-inclined, but not before decorating her own neck with night-ready burden on ‘Soak’. The fight against the pull of darkness is fought valiantly throughout the album – sobering warning standing tall above hopelessness, but here she demands to be taken to the water.

‘NMO’ offers 57-seconds of warped, transitionary ambience before the distance between Danilova’s demons and the suffering of others that previously paved ‘Okovi’ dissipates in its wake as she questions, relapse within reach and a field of wasted acres behind her, “what remains of us?” on penultimate track ‘Remains’. The answer is found in word-less, ocean-led closer ‘Half Life’, as the semi-wounded, instrumental animal poses no questions and sacrifices no answers. All that is gifted is the un-spoken acceptance of all that has come, and might come again.

Release Date 8th September 2017 (Sacred Bones Records)

James Musker

Music Journalism student and lover of all things sensory and cosmic.