Above all, Zola Jesus has crafted a profound meditation on loss and reconciliation that stands tall alongside the great works of its genre. Okovi speaks of tragedy with great wisdom and clarity. Its songs plumb dark depths, but they reflect light as well.
"Okovi is a Slavic word for shackles. We are all shackled to something — to life, to death, to bodies, to minds, to illness, to people, to birthright, to duty. Each of us born with a unique debt, a price for riding the thresholds of this sensuous existence. We have until we die to pay it back. Without such cost, what gives us the right to live? And moreover, what gives us the right to die? Are we really even free to choose?
The past couple years were spent violently braced against limbo, for loved ones and for myself. Clawing at the geography of fresh wounds, biting the marks of a lost interior war. We curse the world, we throw our arms up to at dead sky, and we cry: Is this all there is? And the sky shouts back, Isn’t it enough?
Okovi is a deeply personal snapshot of loss, reconciliation, and a sympathy for the chains that keep us all grounded to the unforgiving laws of feral nature.
Last year, I moved back to the woods in Wisconsin where I was raised. I built a little house just steps away from where my dilapidated childhood tree fort is slowly recombining into earth. For this record, I decided to enlist the help of Alex DeGroot, who has been the only constant in my live band and helped mix the Stridulum EP back in 2010. The record will be released on Sacred Bones, the closest group of people I’ll ever have to blood-bound family.
Okovi was fed by a return to roots and several very personal traumas. While writing the record, I endured people very close to me trying to die, and others trying desperately not to. Meanwhile, I was fighting through a haze so thick I wasn’t sure I’d find my way to the other side. Death, in all of its masks, has been encircling everyone I love, and with it the questions of legacy, worth, and will."