A Trip to Ballistica, land of Mark Zero

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I hate the guitar. If you’ve been knowing me for enough time, you should be aware of that by now.

I happen to be one of these people claiming my clear hatred for this devilish instrument. I mean, guitars are annoying to no ends, and so are guitarists. Guitars are omnipresent, invasive.

« But… Lia, ain’t you a metal fan? »  »

I know. I hate the guitar, but I like metal. And I like blues, and jazz, and flamenco … I actually like music with guitar in it. I deal with it, and I do so well that today I’ll be talking about a band with not ONE … but TWO guitars.


Let’s head back to Sweden for a while. You’ve understood by now that I kind of like this country. We’re heading to Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden (543,000 inhabitants … « large » cities in Sweden), a cute industrial town in the South West, by the sea, renowned for its dynamism and its stupid puns. (No kidding: these are really the first two things a Swede will tell you about Gothenburg. I don’t know for you, but for me, it is fascinating and makes me want to pack my bags and get in the first plane headed there. I may not be very objective though.)

Gothenburg is the home of many metal bands. Among those who have reached France, we have for example In Flames, Hammerfall, Amaranthe or Dark Tranquility.
And then there’s Mark Zero (they’re cheating: at first they were from Falun, so they are even dearer to my heart).

Mark Zero introduce themselves as a « heavy, melodic rock band with lots of agony and anxiety, with strong melodies and meaningful lyrics in a dark soundscape with seriously detuned guitars »
Put this way, I was expecting some very violent, almost gloomy music and lyrics.
Spoiler alert: Not at all. (Well, not *too much*.)

It was by chance that I discovered Mark Zero in Falun, in 2015, at the Rockstad Festival . At that time it was « the band of my couchsurfing host’s friends » (it sounds very complicated, but honestly, it isn’t. Friends of friends are my friends and so on).
I had seen their set from afar back then, just enough to make me think « Okay, I like what I’m hearing ».

Afterwards, I went to look a little further (partly for #LiaEnScandinavie, I confess), and I realized that I in fact came to like everything I listened to. But that was merely a passing-by band…
…that is, until last September when they announced the release of their album. Along with the teasing, I started to look forward to this release.
It only took one video to convince me to pre-order.

« I don’t ever wanna feel that way again »
(That’s it, I’m going to have it stuck in the head for the week again.)

Bleed It Out, Ballistica‘s first single, is a great preview for the whole album, which finally came out in last November and that I have listened to at least a gazillion times since.

Ballistica in three words: direct, hypercatchy and effective.
The kind of music I find myself still unconsciously singing two or three days after listening to it, while bouncing and imagining the possible mosh. Somehow, it made some of my time in public transportation less painful.
It may be weird, but it’s almost like feel-good music for me: the whole album has a good taste of nostalgia. Each of their songs is a new Proust madeleine in his own way. They take all the elements that constituted my adolescence and throw them into their musical landscape.
I find industrial metal, I find the sounds of heavy / numetal that made me turn to the saturated rock side of the force at age 13, I find an evolution that I lived in music. I listen to this album as pleasantly as when dancing on House of Wonders by Lovelorn Dolls, Minutes to Midnight from Linkin Park (we agree, it’s not their best, I know, but that’s the one it makes me think of, deal with it), or a few songs by Skillet, a band that one of my former students had the good taste to make me discover years ago …

In short, Mark Zero’s music is, you know, that kind of deliciously comfort-music that you listen to when you drive, or clean, or to help wake up in the morning, or to dance in the street?

Musically, we’re not walking off the beaten tracks. The rhythm guitar goes along with drums and a groovy bass to establish effective musical fundations, the lead guitar sings merrily (even meowing sometimes, such as on Bleed It Out), some parts are broadened with acoustic guitar, electronic sounds, violin, piano … and, that was a nice surprise, chimes. (I may have heard a clarinet at one time too, but I can’t be too sure of that.)
We’re just short of a banjo for me to be perfectly content, but hey, no one can achieve perfection.

From a prod perspective: it is pretty clean, everything is well-mixed and balanced and it all perfectly takes off. A takeoff that is just slightly, enjoyably bouncy, with choruses that come to stick itself in your head to spin, spin… and make you dance in the subway with a smile on your face, because the lyrics sung by a voice rather versatile and well controlled (clean vocals, screams and growls are alternated efficiently in an extremely pleasant articulation) have a surprisingly cathartic reach.
We’re mostly talking about emancipation from the « one-true-right-way-of-being » (you may have understood by now that this topic particularly speaks to me), in simple words, situations clear and sometimes easily recognizable. Sure, we’re not re-inventing the English language, but it’s no matter: it’s all the easier to sing. And I enjoy the small part in Swedish…

The album is not quite homogeneous in terms of genre, and it’s a good thing: it can fit all tastes. We alternate from heavy in the first tracks (Bleed It Out or One Against The World) with ballads more or less… cute? such as All That I Loved Was Enemy, Not Gonna Die (for which, I confess, I have a soft spot) or This Is Your Life.
In some songs, we can also find very old-school sonorities, such as in My Polluted Mind or Alive (the latter also has my favor in terms of lyrics).
With all the genres of the songs, you will have realized that I have a hard time isolating one in particular …but among all those, Megamösh is THE UFO of the album. In my opinion, it is « the special one », the real gem of the album, a hymn to madness in which the singer surpasses himself in terms of flow. It’s aggressive, it’s crazy, I was talking about the cathartic effect earlier: it’s probably on this track that it is most present.

In terms of atmosphere, Mark Zero do not lie in the description I first mentioned: it’s dark, it’s heavy, it’s sometimes almost filled with anxiety (I’m thinking about This Is Your Life and its heavy rhythmic pounding). And yet, it works. I dance on some songs, I immensely want to write about others, and I clearly feel that there are still new things to hear even after several listenings.

If I do not enjoy every song, I must admit one thing: all of them are keepers. For a first album, there’s nothing to say: it’s a complete success. It is a collection of musical hits and Mark Zero’s universe is already well laid.

You can find their album Ballistica pretty much on every possible medium: on Spotify, on iTunes, on Google Play, and – my favorite – on Bandcamp. For news about them, it’s either via Twitter or Facebook.

I missed Mark Zero in concert more than once, but I know that I will probably see them in Falun next August. I can only encourage you to do so too!
And while waiting for that time when I finally see them live, I keep the album on repeat mode in my mp3 player.

I hate the guitar, but I like Mark Zero. And maybe you will too?