Mesa, Arizona’s hometown boys, Authority Zero, released their fourth studio album, Stories of Survival, on June 22nd. The disc, the band’s first on new label home Suburban Noize Records, is a lot of fun, but that’s hardly surprising. They’ve been pumping out energetic surf-rock-ska for about nine years now. Their previous two albums, Andiamo and 12:34, were solid, but this time around A Zero have really honed in on the best aspects of their sound.
They’ve always shown their appreciation for skate punk and ska in older albums, such as 2002's debut record A Passage in Time, but never with results this consistent. The album’s first song, New Pollution, kicks things off in energetic fashion. Lead singer Jason DeVore’s unique voice has been one of A Zero’s most recognizable qualities in their career, and he sounds better than ever on this disc. A Zero’s live shows are always energetic affairs, and New Pollution is prime mosh pit fodder.
A Day to Remember is up next, fueled by high-energy punk guitar riffs and a pummeling drum beat delivered by Jim Wilcox. The song builds to one of A Zero’s customary sing-along choruses, complete with high-energy vocal chants and a powerful bridge accentuated by Jeremy Wood’s slick bassline that explodes back into the chorus. Anyone eager to see what Authority Zero is all about should start with this song.
Brick in the Wave is another highlight of the disc, with abrupt-style singing by DeVore set to choppy surf guitars and more group vocals. The group vocal aspect of Authority Zero really gives their songs a lot of energy, and they pull it off well.
Big Bad World slows things down a bit, and is hands-down my favorite track on Stories of Survival. Zach Vogel’s reggae-tinged guitar riff starts the song out before it morphs into an almost ska-tune (sans horns) with DeVore singing about the cruel hand of fate and how it deals some of us a rough card in our lives, while others are blessed with more fortunate situations. The song has an infectious quality to it, from its catchy riff and vocal chants to its memorable chorus. It’s really one of the best songs I’ve ever heard from Authority Zero, as it really shows them at their absolute best.
The energy is turned back up with Break the Mold and Crashland, the latter of which is another standout on the record. Starting with some radar feedback-y noise, DeVore sings over distorted guitar for a minute or so before the drums and bass kick in. The transition from the quiet beginning that builds to a punked-up aggressive burner makes Crashland another quality track, also one of the better A Zero songs I’ve heard. The bridge is also noteworthy, with some noodly guitars and DeVore leading the charge on more group chants and circle pit fun, until the melodic guitars and rhythm kick back in for the rest of the song. Awesome.
Liberateducation’s mash-up of punk power, frenetic guitar solo and reggae-ska bridge also made me want to strap on some Vans and get in the skank pit, but I somehow managed to resist the urge. Still, the song also provides one of the album’s strongest choruses, about surviving and rising above and being true to yourself (all topics of interest for Authority Zero over the years).
Movement echoes the vibes of Big Bad World, ska guitar riffs and an easy melody aided by DeVore’s resilient vocals. Lyrically it’s a bit repetitive, but the overall feel of the song makes it notable, as the instrumentation is really nice on the ears.
The Remedy and No Way Home close out the album, both high-energy affairs with the customary reggae-ska riffs and vocal chants (The Remedy) and fast-pounding drums and relentless, punch-you-in-the-face aggression (No Way Home). The last track, in particular, includes a guitar-driven bridge (with group chants) that caught me off guard and fits the song very well. It’s a great way to end the album on a high note.
In all, Stories of Survival is probably my second-favorite Authority Zero album (behind 2002’s A Passage in Time). They really brought their A game with this record, and it finds the band displaying their best qualities all around. Every aspect of their sound (ska guitars, punk aggression, powerful vocals) is the best it has ever sounded. Authority Zero has really captured the best essence of their live show and laid it all down in the studio.
I hope more people find out about this band now…if you haven’t heard of/seen them before, you have been missing out. Stories of Survival is primed to get Authority Zero some new attention and respect, and rightly so.
If you saw the video for One More Minute back in 2002 and wrote them off, didn’t pay attention past that 5 minutes, or walked by their set at Warped Tour, now’s your chance to get back on board. You’re welcome.