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Zodiac: A Hiding Place

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The appealing anachronism of this second album by the German band is not fueled by sentimentalism or nostalgia. It's just a damn good heavy rock album—infused with blues and funk grooves—with flashes of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, James Gang and maybe even some Blue Oyster Cult in there for good measure.

A little glam-rock strut doesn't hurt on the funky "Underneath My Bed," and a Southern-rock stomp is well in evidence on the slouching "Moonshine." The dramatic ballad "Leave Me Blind" benefits from a sensitive piano arrangement. This stuff would almost seem like a parody if it weren't so uncannily good.

Most of the time, singer-guitarist Nick van Delft snarls and growls like a 21st-century Ian Gillan, albeit without the Deep Purple singer's high-pitched screams. On the other hand, though, van Delft also plays lead guitar.

There's just the right amount of anthemic spirit in "Free" so that it's engaging without being cloying. The song chugs along at midtempo, with van Delft singing an homage to the joys of being in a rock band on the road, and then the arrangement slows dramatically. The organ of Ruben Claro (who doubles on keyboards and bass, John Paul Jones-style) rings in the background as van Delft begins a slow-burn guitar solo that incrementally builds speed to a shredding frenzy. The rest of the band nails the hard-soft dynamic necessary to pull this off.

Which brings us to the closer: a nine-minute, proto-metal cover of Neil Young's immortal "Cortez the Killer," a blatant tribute to an era and style that obviously has influenced Zodiac.

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