Zero Hour - The Towers Of Avarice

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Sensory
Catalog Number: SR3011
Format: CD
Total Time: 45:22:00

A week ago I was watching this band perform live at ProgPowerUSA and felt they had a very powerful performance. I had had this CD for the week leading up to the event and had hoped to listen to and review it before the festival and certainly before it's expected release date. While neither of those things happened, unfortunately, I was given a preview of what to expect from the festival appearance.

The Towers Of Avarice is Zero Hour's second album, and it begins with its title track. That title track is a contrast between the pummeling, driving drums (Mike Guy) and bass (Troy Tipton) and Erik Rosvold's slow and tortured delivery - like he's in slow motion in comparison. Now by tortured I don't mean he's got a bad voice. Quite the opposite, he has a rather good voice, very suited to the material. It's flexible, though he's not a belter like some. He does go for those sustained moments like the rest, but it's rare.

This album has grown on me after a number of listens, where the power metal of the first track gives way to more melodic metal a la Queensryche, actually, as that is the band I thought of on more than one occasion. Towers is a concept album exploring a very familiar theme. The title says it all, and it is very grim future that Zero Hour are detailing - an extrapolation of something that already exists in Western society - to a greater or lesser degree.

There are plenty of moments for each of the players to show their stuff, no less on that powerful album intro. What you can say about this release is that they are taking the time to develop their theme, where the lyrics, story, and ideas behind it are as important as the dynamic arrangments. In that I'd say they are a lot like Pain Of Salvation. This isn't a toss-off album. And if progressive music means that you have dynamic shifts of mood within a single composition, then you can definitely say Zero Hour are progressive. Equal parts Metallica, Queensryche, Dream Theater, etc., though the Dream Theater aspect is rather minor. I'd say Zero Hour are the hard edged Queensryche we wish Queensryche were - in fact, it makes you realize just how little aggro was present in Empire, where that title track now seems a little light in comparison.

Anyway, this is about Zero Hour. Because I wanted to get this review published to coincide with the album's release, I haven't had nearly as much time to just listen to as I'm finding I wish I had. There are, to me, so many very cool moments, certain phrasings by Rosvold, certain percussive patterns, certain guitar solos...all make this a very meaty release. Makes me wish their set had been longer than about 45 minutes and that more of this album was played live. "Strategem" was among the tracks they played that night and here it is a very tight song - very tight, and there is a great building of tension as the bass, guitar and drums all play off and with each other. I wondered at the fest, briefly, how the fans could be excited about a song that hadn't been released yet before I recalled it's appearance on the Laser's Edge site (and the ProgPowerUSA site). Ah, don't just ya just love the Internet in the absence of radio? Oddly enough, although I added that track to the PPUSA site, I never actually listened to it. "Reflections" is a quite guitar and voice only track, Tipton's tone light and crystaline. Rosvold has almost a Tate-ness about his voice, a certain cadence that would put him alongside Tate, though I wouldn't call him a clone. Like Tate though he knows how to balance the high and low ranges of voice to add that right amount of feeling and emotion. What a beautiful sounding song, and very sad, and tragic. It is followed by the harsh and metallic "Demise And Vestige" which takes up a good bulk of the album and really is the highlight track of the album, containing almost every element folks look for in their power progressive metal - powerful sections; moody, atmospheric sections with shimmering and lyrical guitars, marching percussion and bass, tender but tough vocals...terrific stuff.

Beautiful keyboards and strings open the album's closer "The Ghosts Of Dawn," a track that soon grows darker towards the end, with a "Flight Of The Bumblebee"-like drone briefly providing a backdrop to Rosvold's spoken vocals that end the tune on a very gloomy note.

A few folks I spoke to shared with me that they didn't care too much for the lyrics of their prog/power metal bands, that it was more the sound of the vocalist as instrument that they cared about. Well, while I think that's a minority opinion, I have to say that I'm squarely in the majority. While the vocalists style and tone is paramount, what they are saying is equally important, or you'd get lyrics that were just strings of nonsense - and yes I realize many say that about Yes' Jon Anderson. Rosvold is no slouch of a lyricist, as he comes up with some quite meaningful lines.

I feel there aren't enough good things I could say about this album, and on the other hand, I don't think I've said enough. If you are in any way prog/power metal minded and haven't already become familiar with Zero Hour, then may I recommend them to you? This is a solid album.

The Towers Of Avarice (7:52) / The Subterranean (4:11) / Stratagem (8:06) / Reflections (3:56) / Demise And Vestige (15:47) / The Ghosts Of Dawn (5:30)

Jasun Tipton - guitar, keyboards
Mike Guy - drums
Troy Tipton - bass
Erik Rosvold - vocals, keyboards

Zero Hour (1999)
The Towers Of Avarice (2001)
Metamorphosis (2003) (reissue of s/t debut)
A Fragile Mind (2005)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: March 6th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1282
Language: english


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