Exploding on the scene with one of the strongest sophomore efforts this writer has ever heard, Zahna graced the world with Stronger Than Death, her follow-up to 2018’s Red For War.
The journey to releasing this album was one filled with many punches to the gut, lots of let downs, and uphill battles. From debilitating health issues, going independent, and navigating the difficult-at-best music scene, Stronger Than Death is an album that lives up to its apt name. Sonically, the production of this album is top-tier and wonderfully synchronizes with the thematic elements throughout. Exploring broken relationships, destiny, defying expectations, refusing to surrender, as well as the emptiness and sorrow that result from trials and pain, this album’s musicianship exudes an atmosphere of immersion in the message each song brings.
Zahna has evolved her sound beyond the alt rock drive in Red For War, shifting to a much more aggressive, melodic, and guided tone that is focused and unrestrained. There’s not a moment on the album that feels jarring or out of place; the breakdowns (can we just normalize breakdowns in rock instead of leaving them in metal?) are crushing, and likely to cause whiplash via headbanging; the drums perfectly punctuate the rhythm of the guitar work. Zahna’s voice has never sounded more controlled and polished. With less screams than 2018’s outing, this album still manages a much heavier tone.
A few of the standout tracks from the record are “Better Run!,” “Promise You’re Coming Home,” “Erase,” “Stronger Than Death” and the last single of the album, “Die For Something (feat. Nesdam).” While the whole album is worth listening to (again and again!), these tracks effectively capture the story of the album.
“Better Run!,” a blistering track that explores hypocrisy and shady character, is an all-out assault on the senses that features one of the most neck-breaking moments on the album. “Promise You’re Coming Home,” which has some of the best melodies and structure on the album, explores the heartbreak of deteriorating relationships. Zahna’s vocal power in this track holds a disarming vulnerability that draws listeners in, and the tonality of the guitars complements that accessibility beautifully.
“Erase,” a synth-driven power-ballad of sorts, is a track devoid of hope. It provides an honest look into the difficulty of holding onto hope in the midst of “broken chaos.” At times, it feels as though there isn’t any light to look to. “Stronger Than Death” holds tension in balancing multiple themes, and it does that well. Exploring redemption and surrender, this title track walks a fine line between desperation and release, all while holding to the reality that, while it is “demanding as the grave, but love is stronger than death.”
“Die For Something” is an explosive rock anthem that holds to the freedom of surrendering to the end. “If this is the end, I wanna die for something” serves as a mantra for not going down without a fight. Nesdam’s feature is absolutely perfect, blending his voice effortlessly with Zahna’s. His verse makes the point of this album excellently: “Maybe you won’t heal this time; my body’s dead, my soul’s alive.”
Love is so much stronger than death, that even if this is the end, what has been done in life, extends beyond death. It is a beautiful and freeing call to surrender.
Stronger Than Death is an album that refuses to stay in the shadows, but demands to be heard. There is such a raw honesty that, while bleak at times, clings to the hope and redemption available to all through God. Zahna has poured her heart, blood, sweat, and tears into a record that reflects the love and intentionality of its creator. It is an album that, more than most, communicates emotions equally well in the instrumentation and the lyrics.
Listen to the album on Spotify or Apple Music.
For fans of: Icon For Hire, Memphis May Fire, Amongst the Giants, The Protest