Zola Jesus – “Okovi” (2017)


Label: Sacred Bones Records

Review by Warren Mayocchi

Zola Jesus has an arresting voice. A voice deep with the humanity of experience. On “Okovi” this voice is paired with a set of emotion filled songs about depression, suicide, and legacy. While these topics sound morose, the songs are arranged and performed with care – they communicate a supportive strength which is sometimes evident in the lyrical content. Consider these lines from “Siphon”: “‘Won’t let you bleed out, can’t let you bleed out/’Cause we’d rather clean the blood of a living man”. This is dark material written from experience. Perhaps it is the personal connection which give the songs such power. “Witness” is also about the same suicidal person, “We see your shine/More than the dull you fear/You’re a rare kind/If you could see from the outside”. Other songs do not have a similar refrain of possible redemption, yet they retain the steady guidance of Zola Jesus – though she is taking us to the dark places, we are not going alone, she is coming with us; a strong presence to lean on. “Soak” is my favourite track in an album of great songs. It is about a serial killer’s victim. In thought the person chooses to embrace their oncoming murder – it becomes assisted suicide. The only empowerment left in a powerless position. Musically the album will be familiar to anyone who has heard Zola Jesus‘ prior material. It is orchestral, dark, ambient, experimental, synth – sometimes all at once, but it is a masterful mix. Have a look at the music video for “Soak” [link], it is a good representation of “Okovi”. Given what was said above about the vocal power of Zola Jesus it is interesting the album has a couple of tracks which only have incidental vocals. “Half Life” is one of those instrumentals, it closes the album with a moment of contemplation. “Okovi” means “shackles” – are we chained by life or death?

Rating – 96/100



  1. Doma
  2. Exhumed
  3. Soak
  4. Ash to Bone
  5. Witness
  6. Siphon
  7. Veka
  8. Wiseblood
  9. NMO
  10. Remains
  11. Half Life





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