I have to admit, I get hung up on band names. Ideally, a band’s calling card should either have some meaning that relates to their music, shed light on some kind of interesting tidbit in pop culture, or even reference a literary work. It could also be totally random but ambiguous enough not to raise any unnecessary eyebrows. The word “Zeus” has a powerful connotation and is not necessarily a bad name for a metal band with wrath and vengeance on its mind, but the Canadian foursome’s moniker cannot possibly be farther from the way they sound and operate. Unlike the mythical Greek god that dominates others with his power, demonstrates awesome bouts of rage and has a general tendency towards punitive control measures, Mike O’Brien, Carlin Nicholson, Neil Quin and Rob Drake share equally in the song writing and produce melodic psychedelic-pop that makes you want to converge under a festival tent for a shared community experience. So the name doesn’t fit, but Zeus’s second effort should not be overlooked.
Busting Visions sounds like it was conceived somewhere in 1970, which, incidentally, is the year that The Guess Who, arguably one of Canada’s greatest rock bands of all time, released their most successful album (great band name btw). American Woman defined Canadian music in 1970, and its melodic structures, intelligent musical arrangements, hooks and tight musicianship are all common values shared with Busting Visions. In addition to The Guess Who’s influence, Busting Visions has a similar feel of grit to Blitzen Trapper, yet contains a softer aesthetic with a focus on complex vocal harmonies.
When it works, the results are pretty impressive. Their lead track ‘Are You Gonna Waste My Time’ could have come straight from [The Guess Who's] Burton Cummings’ creative treasure trove, with a heavy hook-laden chorus and classic rock graffiti spray painted all over the guitar work. ‘Anything You Want Dear’ invests loads of energy in driving the catchy question-and-answer chorus home, repeating it a multitude of times for good measure. And who can blame the band, when they seem to have stumbled on a hook line destined for eternal repetition. Somewhere in the classic rock revival stew, though, the hooks become a little less sharp, but the complexities of the songs remain intact. ’Love in a Game’ contains a sweet melody that’s a little harder to appreciate. The track does not immediately invite the listener into a singalong, but the classic four-chord melody, disguised to sound more sophisticated than it is, eventually draws you in. A little off the beaten path, ‘With Eyes Closed’ is the highlight. Soft harmonies wrap around the chorus providing that ’70s-float-on-a-cloud feeling while the guitars become quite a bit more serious to finish off the track. Like the album, ‘With Eyes Closed’ has many moments rooted in the classics that sound comfortably familiar, yet refreshingly new.
The strengths of the album are also its downfalls. Unless you are really into that whole classic rock era, it might be difficult to handle the entire album at once. Best used for adding to your playlists, Busting Visions undoubtedly has its moments. As well as the tracks already mentioned, the Queen-esque ‘Stop the Train’, the musically dichotomous ‘Love/Pain’ and the flute interlude of ‘Messenger’s Wait’ are stellar moments that complement the other tracks nicely. The two longest songs, though, are also the most confusing. ‘Cool Blue and the Things You Do’ and ‘Hello Tender Love’ suffer from a sonic identity crisis as Zeus tries to do a bit too much with different musical combinations. ‘Now That I’ve Got You’ is an awkward way to finish the album seeing as how it is void of any lasting hooks or memorable moments. The remainder of the album offers nice background tunes, but nothing immediately satisfying. Somewhere in their press release, Zeus’ sound is described as timeless. While that remains to be proved, the Toronto-based band are certainly inspired by timeless motifs and they incorporate them nicely in Busting Visions.