0 is an “unnamed” album, released in 2014, that was produced by the Icelandic rock band Low Roar. 0 features thirteen songs with the most alternative and experimental music I have ever heard, with each song being about caring for others….most of the time. This is my experience with and review on 0 and how it is a sleeper hit.
I first learned about Low Roar on June 13, 2016, when Sony’s E3 conference was held. The developers of PlayStation 4 revealed many exclusive games releasing for their system. One of the games revealed was a game called “Death Stranding,” where, at the time, was a teaser trailer about Norman Reedus (an American actor who starred in the Walking Dead) waking up in a grey beach with a baby alongside him. He finds himself staring at the black sea with dead whales in an apocalyptic, foggy beach. The trailer is catered towards mature audiences so all I can tell you is to look up “Death Stranding E3 2016” only if you’re 17+ years old and interested.
The game, however, isn’t going to be my topic today as I want to discuss the song used for the teaser: Low Roar – “I’ll Keep Coming.” When I first heard this song it felt like nothing I had ever held before. The first half of the song is a quiet buildup with dark synths and simple lyrics. There were many sounds that were simultaneously unrecognizable yet familiar. After the singer, Ryan Karazija, of Low Roar says “I’ll Keep Coming” halfway through the song, the instruments go from being soft to frantic, and the singer repeats the phrase throughout the rest of the song. The lyrics flow so well with the ominous theme, which is really soothing to hear.
I never got into checking out the rest of the album until 2018 but I heard some awesome songs such as “Anything You Need”, “Phantoms”, and “Vampire On My Fridge” in between the two years. Each song feels similar in terms of the sounds it is trying to convey and I would describe those sounds being both familiar and unfamiliar when mixed together.The entire album is mysterious because the band has never provided much information about the album’s meaning or inspiration. I’ll only cover 5 of the 13 songs to keep this review short but interesting.
The album starts with a song called “Breathe In” with the instruments already abiding by the song’s name. It starts out as a soft, morning symphony followed by a distorted noise (most likely an adjusted synth) that truly prevents the song from being familiar. The second half of the song, however, returns to the sounds of an aching symphony as soon as the acoustic guitar started playing, with the synths quieting down, yet still present. The lyrics are hard to follow only because I choose to review these lyrics without looking them up. Something about the singing seems to have a different meaning entirely than the actual lyrics, other than the singer repeating “I breathe in.” Overall, a very soft yet satisfying beginning to the album.
Three songs after and “Half Asleep” plays. The song features a very quiet synth followed by two loud, high pitch piano sounds. Soon after, an accordion plays along with the singer singing about waking up half asleep. As the song rises with guitar and faster synths, it slows back down again and after the final verse, the synths begin to frolic with the background vocals icing the rest of the verse about “the more we talk, the less I will”. It stops for a brief moment as a distorting noise followed by a dark humming plays. The song continues with this and ends with a guitar solo and humming vocals. The song gives a vibe of passing through an open pasture as it goes on for three minutes, and since I never found this part repetitive myself, the song is great for what it is.
Next is “Phantoms”. The song starts with only a repeating drumbeat with vocals are added in soon after. The accordion and synth keys from “Half Asleep” could be heard again but this time, the instruments are less distorted and more acoustic. As much as I like the singing in “Phantoms”, he sings too high pitched to make out the lyrics. The song then rises as more stringed instruments are added and the drumming intensifies. After the singer goes through the last verse, all of the song’s build-up suddenly stops. A low pitched violin and light background vocals begin to play until that build up resumes with the song’s intense acoustic and synth instruments going haywire for about two minutes more. Overall, I think this is another great song to listen to and just empty your mind.
Finally, I wanted to review “Anything You Need”. The song begins with two synths playing, one very low-pitch as the bass and the other playing three keys of a piano that are high pitch but not as high as the last two songs. “Come in, come in, come in, take anything you want from me/take anything you need” are the only lyrics that play when the distorted synth breaks. This song really gives a vibe that something is wrong yet its so much fun to listen to because of all kinds of all of the different sounds working together and delivering a short but satisfying three minute experience. Most of the songs in this album are about six to seven minutes long so this song is a nice change of pace.
What all of these songs have in common is their twist to traditional music many people know about, the lyrics have an unclear context and the instruments are remixed to produce a supernatural vibe. Personally I love this album and I find it very nice to listen to as it’s not repetitive and it feels like a fever dream to go through. 0 is very obscure, it only has two official reviews (a 5/5 from Iceland Review and a 4/5 from Sputnikmusic) and on the iTunes stores the album currently has 29 reviews and all of them are five stars, though they mostly come from people after watching the Death Stranding teaser.
In conclusion, if you’re interested in an alternative/experimental kind of genre, I would highly recommend listening to “0” because even though it may come off as a weird album to many with the songs being not very traditional and definitely not something you wouldn’t hear everyday, it delivers in the end with it’s ominous yet pleasing vibe.