New Sounds: Zola Jesus turns up the intensity on ‘Exhumed’

On her new single, Zola Jesus does a lot of digging: Digging deeper into alternative, deeper into the horrible realities of human existence, and deeper into her own personal “shackles.”

Which, of course, is perfect for a song titled “Exhumed.”

Nika Roza Danilova released the song today (June 6) as the first track off her forthcoming album Okovi — the Slavic word for shackles — due September 8 via Sacred Bones. The album marks her first new music since 2013’s Versions.

“Exhumed” is just shy of four minutes, but it crams a century’s worth of wartorn anguish into every precious second, fashioning a cinematic masterpiece of a tale with operatic drama. The single starts with a rushed violin solo, much like “Hikikomori,” but takes a sharp turn away from charming alt parlor music towards anthemic battle cry — except the only war taking place here is the war with oneself and reality.

“We’re all shackled to something — to life, to death, to bodies, to minds, to illness, to people, to birthright, to duty,” she says in a statement about the new album. “Each of us born with a unique debt, and we have until we die to pay it back. Without this cost, what gives us the right to live? And moreover, what gives us the right to die? Are we really even free to choose?”

It’s a lot to take in on a Tuesday morning for sure, but this new, darker chapter for this Wisconsin musician already glistens with goth-y existential promise.