A year ago, a single under a new name exploded onto the rock charts, climbing both Christian and Active Rock formats. The head-turner was “Underneath” by Zahna, a powerful vocalist who has climbed her way out from under the rubble of a lot of loss–and has a lot to say about it.
Zahna’s voice first became familiar to rock listeners through a stint as vocalist for Ilia. When that season ended, Zahna was left disappointed, disillusioned and unsure of the future. At the same time, she started facing life-altering health issues. This was the backdrop for recording the confessional “Underneath” with Joshua Betrand and Patrick Madsen, both members of Random Hero. The song quickly propelled Zahna not only to chart recognition, but to signing with Rockfest Records, the new label venture of Joseph Rojas (Seventh Day Slumber). With this kind of backdrop, you might expect her debut full length Red For War to be intense. You’d be absolutely correct.
Red For War is an unabashed hard rock record that screams in the face of all the forces, relational and physical and spiritual, that try and drag us down and hold us in the dark. “Unshaken” begins the album with a rallying cry: “we remain unshaken.” That truth serves as the plumb line for measuring the depths of what it feels like when our life falls apart.
Songs like “Misery” and “Your Gun My Knife” are songs of anger and confusion in the face of betrayal, with Zahna’s dynamic voice providing the auditory complement to the conflicting emotions as it ranges from rough-edged screams to flawlessly piercing melodies. This range is captured in second single “Drown” as well, a song carried by a tragically beautiful melody and the keening lament “Go take that step you say that you need / Go ahead let the world finally bleed / Go break and let it fall to the ground / Go ahead and just leave me to drown.”
But Red For War carries more than just the ability to express the scorching heat at the center of the fire. It also sings from the other side the affirmation that you can survive it. “With You” plays as a peaceful love song. “Dreamer” looks into the hearts of those shattered by their struggles and calls on their true souls to come back into the light: “You’re so into your mind that you can’t stop / You’re holding back with all you’ve got / But is this who you are?” The album’s closer and lone ballad, “Edge of the Earth,” reflects back on the way redemption intersects with the darkest moments.
Musically, Red For War is confident in its own skin: hard rock with occasional industrial elements, weaving in strong screamed vocals while leaning hardest on the effortless melodic ability of Zahna’s voice. Thematically, this collection of songs is equally unapologetic. With Red For War, Zahna is determined and in pain and courageous and still hopeful–sometimes all in the same instantly memorable chorus. That makes this album refreshingly human. Rock fans will rejoice to have an album that hones in on the best elements of the genre. They will also see their own face looking back at them from somewhere inside the lyrics which wind their way through pain and onward, toward the long road of healing.
Related Artists: Lacey Sturm, Nothing More, RED, Evanescence