If you are looking for an album full of sappy slow songs, empty emotion, or elevator music, STOP reading. DO NOT read any further – just step away because this collection of music isn’t for you.
Now, if you are searching for a collection of music that has substance, sustenance, and soul, then keep reading.
If you are craving music that is encased in mellow quick tempos of passion, pleasure, pain, and purpose set to eclectic instrumentation, spelled out in uncomplicated lyrics, and rhythmic vocals, then by all means, step up, get comfortable, and feel the wild slow burn of “Unbridled & Ablaze” from Zialand.
Zialand (Zia) is a singer/songwriter/producer/mixer born in Norway. To capture her musical taste, she traveled and lived in Los Angeles (USA), India, and Australia. Now returning to her grass roots in Norway, she has completed her third EP of music titled “Unbridled & Ablaze” and she has labeled her personal style of music “Cinematic Soul Pop” a fitting self-genre since her music is like film scores matching her journey.
“Unbridled & Ablaze” feature nine tracks:
- Come Over
- Running Cold
- I Love You
- Don’t Look Down
And while the theme of living life uncaged and fully charged runs through the entire collection of Pop Soul, this is my interpretation of the seven tracks that highlight this theme.
If there is smoke where there is fire, then “Thunder” is that for this album as this opening track brings the smoke to alert you to the blaze that you are about to feel included in the accompanying tracks. The texture of “Thunder” is R&B in feel but Pop in its instrumentation. And while it is slow to build, it wonderfully mutates and progresses with hills and valleys of vocal modulation and scale-backs. Moreover, Zialand delivers a soft assertive vocal that is a great blend of Toni Braxton meets Celine Dion. This track is already commercially ready to beat its mainstream Top 40 contemporaries in the same fashion that Anita Baker’s Rapture did in 1986. It is about time for another song like this – YAY!
And the only way to soften sadness is to sing words so beautifully that the sadness fades to black to where the sadness may still be there, but it’s not has heavy. The soulful chanteuse gives us the gift of empathy set to words in her third track “Running Cold” a track about losing a loved one and still living. The brass, cymbals, and grief-stricken synths attribute to the solemn, yet hopeful, track.
By the time I got to the fourth track on “Unbridled & Ablaze,” my tissues were in my hand, but I was not crying, nah – I was raising up my hands, tissues in grasp, and I was waving those tissues so gently into the air saying “sang, girl, sang.” Yes, Zialand takes you to church on “I Love You” – a track about the unbreakable spirit of a woman scorned by her lover. The lyrics read: no I won’t let you have it / no you can’t take it back / walk out and hurry before it all turns to black / it’s what I will let you take away / from this thing we both called a wonder til you let in / cause I love you, I love you, I love you.” In admiration of the way Zialand executes the honesty and power of the track’s theme, I must say I enjoyed the contrasting elements of the track – on the one hand we have the traditional Gospel notes, Hammond organ, and bottom-riding bass that gave way to a heartfelt vibe, but never was the artist or music preachy; and on the other hand, we have the modern Blues aesthetic with the eclipsed synth effects, instrumental sustains, and Zialand’s modern harmonies and bending vocal riffs. These all steadily grasped on to Zialand’s pure, ungentle, lyrics. This is the bend but not break track.
The unbridled passion is elevated in the fifth track“Fever.” There are many elements that brings unbridled passion to the fore and makes this track so mesmerizing and playful to the eardrums: the soft riding vocals of Zialand coupled with the relentless sax, the non-compressed tribal drums, allusive piano, the guitar, and Zialand’s unorthodox (yet welcoming) enunciations of each syllable of the lyrics. I simply dug the way she swayed the pronunciation of the word “fever” as it gives that “ablazed” element to a track that sings about life’s un-expectedness that evokes that thrill to live and love “those little things.” In addition, the vocal harmonies add another freeing layer to an evolving song that builds up and then dives down.
There is only one word that describes “Cleaved” and that is WOW! Such soft power wrapped into three minutes and thirty-five seconds. Much like the other tracks of “Unbridled & Ablaze,” there is plenty of classic Soul instrumentation that builds this track, but on this cut I really hear Zialand’s vocal prowess highlighted. It is the way she can manipulate her voice to evoke and embrace real emotion – the emotion that she wants the listeners to feel. She alters in her vocal tones ebbing between harmonies, double unison, and a scaling range that is unbreakable. The track speaks about the bittersweet reality of love when one knows what they want to love, search for that love, and wait for that love – it’s beautiful, so pretty and timeless. She sings, “how the hell do I find you in the water / what is the port of call / how do I find you when it starts to pour / to each their own confession / to point you to my door I’ll be a better someone than I was before / the writing on the wall’s in letters much to hard to see / I’ve broken both my hands not letting up and staying cleaved / I’ve loved you all my life not knowing how or when I’d see you.” You will catch yourself in deep thought while listening to this track. And at the two-minute mark, Zialand hits some soft highs that showcase her style, technique, and range that would give Mariah a run for her throne. The way Zialand chose to tackle this tune is so invitingly fitting for the hope and a prayer theme of “Cleaved” and it is proof that Zialand is not a studio-made artist.
The seventh song in this collection, “Shelter,” is easily one of my favorites as this was the track that introduced me to Zialand as an artist and as a friend. Please read my review of this track here:
Zialand concludes her album with the Soulful “Landslide.” This track starts like an EDM track and builds to a Soul/Pop stirring anthem exemplifying “GIRL POWER.” The internal message says I am bigger than your pain and Zialand emotionally sings “don’t think I’m pining / that you’re my silver lining / that I’m waiting for you / I don’t forget catching fire, or how I expired / how I made myself smaller to get through this / my love is, my love is, my love is greater than you.” Freeing isn’t it? And I just love, love, love the way the harmony marries and dances to the modulating synths at the two-minute mark and then climbs to the hook where Zialand introduces the title of the track. Talent and technique! What a way to close a collection – a song that just explodes gently in the same way a bomb sets off under water – you feel the impact, but it is muted just enough not to cause pain.
It is obvious at first listen, and after continuous listens, that this EP was not done on a whim – it took time to build such a masterpiece. Zialand stated once before that “with all these difficult years behind me, it is nice to finally have the freedom to create and share my music again.” Well, out of trying times comes a masterpiece; from tension comes taste; from lost comes love; and, from the freedom to create as she wanted, came an album full of tactfulness, skill, muscle, mystery, and talent!
If I were to fully elucidate the full depth of Zialand’s music, it would fill pages, so the best way to briefly illustrate the scope of her artistry is for you to imagine this illustration: you just walked into The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City USA and you see exhibit after exhibit. You are surrounded by styles of art (classical, modern, and Avant-Gard). You notice many interpretations of art. Suddenly, the room that is roped off catches your eyes and you bend your neck just to gaze upon the one bust under a spot light inside of the roped-off room. You are intrigued to know more.
So, you step up to the room and the guide lets you in. You peer at the art and walk around it to really see its history, beauty, and exquisiteness. Then after leaving the museum, after seeing so many other things, the only thing that stays with you is that rare, beautiful piece of art that you first caught sight of in that roped off room. Some might think that the rope imprisons the piece of art, but in reality, the rope protects it from the masses – it is too wealthy in its form and composition to be placed amongst the typical or usual.
That is what Zialand’s musical style represents as she is an original artform surrounded by the mimics and artificial artists of many in modern mainstream Pop. As an indie artist, she automatically sets herself apart from the norm.
“Unbridled & Ablaze” is nothing short of a piece of art with musical duplexity, complex vocals, and candid lyrics. It is music and emotion that is unrestrained and not controlled by any means. And, it is smoldering enough to give you that warm balance of peace.
And it is great that the brutal honesty in Zialand’s lyrics are not trapped by the confines of mainstream media or mainstream production, so we get the heat of passion and the burning of anguish upfront and personal – her reality is not washed away.
It is amazing! Zialand is an artist that we can say is 100% real and that is difficult to say in 2018.
She stands alone but is viewed by all.
Make sure to purchase your copy of “Unbridled & Ablaze" TODAY at www.Zialand.net.