EP Review: One Day as a Lion – One Day as a Lion

Artist: One Day as a Lion
EP: One Day as a Lion
Label: Anti

Zach de la Rocha is angry. Clearly he’s still really pissed off about war and lots of other ‘bad stuff’. The kind of thing parents are trying desperately to protect their knife wielding, bastard children. It’s been a long time since the Rage vocalist wrote some new material (if you forget the forgettable contribution to Michael Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11) and rather disappointingly it seems that his muses remain pretty similar to the things he was rapping about on Battle of Los Angeles, which was released a rather unbelievable nine years ago.

Considering how long fans have been eagerly salivating for the rumoured collaboration between de la Rocha and ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore it comes as quite a bizarre choice that the former would chose now to show off his keyboard skills, seeing as the band that made him famous are now doing the rounds all around the world, and earning a truckload of money off it. With a name based on the infamous graffiti slogan “it’s better to live one day as a lion, than a thousand years as a lamb” the duo have combined to form an effective, if rather stale partnership when you consider their musical backgrounds.

Wild International‘ opens things up brightly, with Zach proving himself a dab hand at the keys with a repetitive, but no less infectious riff that is so heavily distorted and processed it could sound like something from a certain Tom Morello’s school of thought. Theodore is incredibly adept at providing punctual percussion, but throughout the album you do feel he kind of takes a back seat to the vocals and the keys, drums that prey quietly in the background whilst the noisy atmosphere of de la Rocha provides ample camouflage.

The partnership of Zach de la Rocha and Jon Theodore had many people excited.
The partnership of Zach de la Rocha and Jon Theodore had many people (understandably) excited.

After that, I could pretty much repeat the above paragraph for the rest of the four tracks. The only really noticeable experimentation on offer here is de la Rocha’s straining vocal melodies that tend to make up the extent of a chorus. For someone who made a name for himself talking fast, his actual singing voice isn’t too bad and goes some way to achieving an anthemic effect.

There are a few moments of brilliance that are never really built upon. ‘Last Letter‘ builds to a brilliant final chorus that is just ready to burst at the seams, but just like a premature ejaculator the ending comes all too fast and you’re left completely unsatisfied. ‘If You Fear Dying’ has a snarling, bassy chorus that oozes a sense of warning, but the rest of the track is let down by a main riff that is only a few notes apart from Wild International, to the point where you will inevitably do a double take every time it kicks off.

Some say that Jon Theodore is actually a superhero...
Some say that Jon Theodore is actually a superhero...

It’s a shame that after a while the songs just kind of blend into one, and given that the music on offer here has a lot more in common with Rage Against the Machine than it does the Mars Volta, you can’t help but begin to yearn for those Morello solos that would break up the monotony of any of de la Rocha’s vocal tirades about the government. You long for the back and forth interplay that Tom and Zach had formed naturally, and despite the talent within One Day as Lion, there isn’t that spark that makes it all seem exciting and so damn rebellious as it might like to be.

Unfortunately the inevitable comparisons to Rage leave this EP wanting for something more. The tracks on here are by no means bad, but given the moist anticipation that a partnership between de la Rocha and Jon Theodore achieved, you just feel a bit let down once the twenty minutes is up. When you’ve got the first Rage album in your music collection, One Day as a Lion seems an exercise in futility.

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2 thoughts on “EP Review: One Day as a Lion – One Day as a Lion”

  1. Hey man, you couldn’t be more right about this album. On my first listens, i repeatedly checked my iPod to see what the name of the track was because i swore i already heard it. Then i thought to myself and wondered if, blindfolded, i could distinguish between them. They made me wonder whether if i had already heard them or if they merely sounded alike. It was puzzling, believe me.

    There are some good parts there. I agree with your assessment of Wild International. It’s a good springboard for an album, but it sorta lingers in above average angst from there on out. If You Fear Dying in particular is a little sophomoric to me. I wasn’t a huge Rage fan, though definitely aware of their greatness, but even those old singles put this new stuff to shame. Makes Zach seem a little out of it, which fits considering it took him roughly 75 years to finally drop this EP.

    Theodore put any and all regrets of him leaving Volta behind me. Volta is my favorite band, and while i might not be smitten with the new drummer, Theodore, the man who most reinvented my perception of drumming, didn’t live up to anybody’s expectations on One Day. Probably not even his own.

    Good review. Semi-typical “reviewer’s language” is a little drab and stale, but the insight (if not lifted) was pretty decent.

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