Reading Zero - The Actual

Year of Release: 1997
Label: self-released/RZ Records
Catalog Number: 71372
Format: CD
Total Time: 53:56:00

This is not one of those discs that you receive, and then write about instantly; nor do you absorb what this band is doing in a few listens. I equate the name of this band somehow with the content of the music contained on the disc. How hard is it to "read zero," which may give you an indication of how complex this disc is to understand. While I am hearing some Perfect Symmetry-era Fates Warning in the guitar work, I am also hearing some Leviathan meets an Edwin Dare style as well. It is difficult to latch on to one single band for a comparison, as there are many aspects of this band which are just too extreme to compare to one or even five other bands; it's a call you have to make for yourself, but I imagine that fans of the bands I mentioned will like Reading Zero, of course depending on what it is you like about those other bands.

Along the way, you might even hear semblances of some Queensryche, and maybe a host of other bands you can compare them with, but if you try to pinpoint one or two bands that Reading Zero reminds you of, you'll spend quite awhile coming up with just one or two, and for prog metal fans, this spells some sort of uniqueness, or creativity which should already excite you. The band is obviously not out to sound like any other band, something that we prog metal fans love to hear and appreciate. In this day and age, the mere mention of prog metal brings thoughts of Dream Theater or Fates Warning to mind, so it's quite exciting when bands like this emerge from nowhere to bring us something special.


Progressive metal all the way, brought to us by the use of twin guitars, bass and drums, with the bass player doubling as singer. What? No front man? Not in this band. How many times have you seen prog metal bands without a front man? This should give you yet another indication of the talent level of this band. Again, I bring up comparisons to Leviathan, Edwin Dare and Fates Warning to give an idea of the type of music you can expect of this band. There are plenty of tempo changes, strange melodies, stops, starts, and everything else that goes along with a prog metal band, and this band pulls it all off too effortlessly, if that makes any sense. The guitar sounds remind me a lot of the Leviathan sound from Scoring the Chapters, only here you have the twin sound as well. The Fates Warning sound comes in with a lot of the odd time changes that also embody what Perfect Symmetry is all about, along with the resemblance of singer Chris Roy to Ray Alder at times, and the Edwin Dare comparison comes into play with some of the more familiar sounds that go along with that band, in addition to the many vocal processings that Chris Roy uses as well as the Edwin Dare singer. Again, don't look for any particular style you can nail this band down with, because it will be hard as each song takes on a new meaning along the way. You'll have a hard time each time out picking and choosing what band each song resembles, so forget it and enjoy what this band is all about on their own without a comparison. They certainly go out of their way to achieve this and I think they succeed.


How does this band achieve this sound? Well, for starters, with a twin guitar attack, only not in the style that a Mercury Rising or The Quiet Room attacks their music, but this band sounds like the two guitarists are purposely avoiding a similar sound, and each one is playing something different on each song. For instance, one may play an electric, while the other uses an acoustic throughout the song. Some of the filler leads are twins, but for the most part, it appears that each guitarist has his own particular function within the music, and it makes for more interesting listening. Since this is guitar driven prog metal, one would expect either the single or both guitarists to be well schooled in their instrument, and in this case, it's an understatement to say that they both are super talented. You won't hear many soaring or shredding solos, which is another interesting factor here, especially with two guitarists, and it even further emphasizes the focus on the music as a whole instead of in pieces. The bass player is also a talented individual, and he has to be, it order to keep up with two players, both of which are playing different parts in the songs, and this bass player has the chore of trying to not only keep up with the drums, but also the guitars that are driving this music, not to mention his singing and synth chores as well. The drummer is solid, producing tempo after tempo change easily, and not overdoing it as other drummers might try to do with fancy runs, or unnecessary fillers.


Many bands would do well to take note of this production, for it is one of the best I've heard in a long time, especially since the band produced it themselves. Try to find another indy that sounds as good as this one does. Reading Zero either knows a lot about recording music, or they have a well hidden secret on how to make a disc sound great, as this one does. It further tells me that if this band can do it on their own, then why can't bands that have big labels come up with a sound as good as this band ? The first thing you will notice, and something I have been waiting to hear in a band, is the fantastic drum sound. My complaints and questions have been addressed in reference to lame drum sounds from other bands. Just listen to the full, booming snare drum sound on this disc, and wonder why others can't achieve this same sound. Not that every band needs to sound this way, but having a nice, thick, sound like this can only further enhance a sound, rather than have people always complaining about great music,but lousy productions. This band goes to show that good sound can be achieved, and in doing so, enhancing their music as well. Combine interesting prog metal with a super recording and see what happens. Every instrument benefits from this production as well, with the guitars just screaming out of your system in a nice, thick crunchy and melodic manner, while the bass just booms out of your speakers. The vocals are uncannily clear as well, making every word easily heard, and it's amazing that they got every instrument to sound so clear, as well as the vocals. Attention to detail went into this recording, and it's no surprise considering that the band plays a style of prog metal that requires attention and detail, so it's no wonder that the band put as much emphasis on the recording as they did the music itself. Hats off to the person or persons that spent time turning buttons and placing mikes to get a sound a full and rich as this one.


This is where this disc will either appeal to you or not. Before I get to why, let me first describe the Chris Roy's voice. I would have to say that it sounds like a cross between Ray Alder, and the singer from Edwin Dare if you remenber what he sounds like. Chris is mid-to-high range singer, except that he sounds like a natural in his high range rather than try to force any of the notes up in that range. He has quite a nice voice, and comparing him to an Alder might have some brows moving rapidly, but this in tonal quality. He has a lot of the tonal qualites that Alder possesses, in addition to the tones of maybe the Edwin Dare singer and the Leviathan singer on the new disc by that band. Two interesting things happen here with Chris's voice though. Number one, he has a unique or odd way of pronouncing his words. If you listen to how he pronounces his words, you will notice that he emphasizes each and every syllable of a word, and he brings the words forward in an odd manner that I haven't heard in a long while. Again, think attention to detail here, and if the word has the letter R in it, you can bet a lot of money that you are going to HEAR that letter R at all costs. I wish I could describe this strange approach in more depth, but just try to imagine someone that really is bent on pronouncing every letter in a word exactly and how it was meant to be pronounced. Secondly, a lot of vocal processing is being used here as well. Rarely is Chris's voice heard au naturel, and there are lots of fancy, swirling noises surrounding his voice, as if his voice was processed through a synthesizer most of the time. If the vocals in Edwin Dare didn't bother you, then this won't either. However, if you are as picky about your singers and how they present their voice to you as I am, this might be a factor. Strangely, the music is so well performed as is the vocals, it's hard NOT to like what Chris sounds like. Either way, be prepared for a unique vocal approach.


Overall, this disc took me a long time to warm up to, and understand. However, once I did, the disc became somewhat clear to me. This band is not content bringing just any old style of prog metal to us, but they are driven to bring their own style of prog metal to us without sounding like any of the standards in prog metal; and they succeed in doing this. Even technical metal fans will enjoy this as there is a certain air of complexity to this music, but the band plays it so warmly, it's hard to really classify this band as a technical band. This is the reason I bring up Perfect Symmetry. If you like the way that Fates Warning brings that technical-yet-melodic prog metal to you, then you should have no problem liking Reading Zero. Other than my personal complaint with the vocal sound, I can't find any other fault with this disc. It is quite refreshing to know that bands can come up with ideas like this, and present them to us in an equally refreshing manner. Once again, bands take note of what Reading Zero has come up with for a recording. They produced this disc themselves, and list Jim Lightman as co-producer and co-engineer. If this is the case, someone should look this guy up and let him spin some magical buttons for your band. This is highly recommended for anyone who likes complexity in their prog metal, yet brought forward with all of the melodic warmth that Fates Warning achieved on Perfect Symmetry.

The Actual (5:04) / Amongst The Clouds (7:12) / Different Climb (4:11) / Dimensions (5:08) / Strategy (5:11) / Midsummer Daydream (Part 1) (1:34) / The Charade (4:56) / Mirage (4:28) / True To Form (4:30) / And Never To Return (6:18) / Amongst The Clouds (unlisted) (4:24)

Joel Decatur - guitars
Russ Pellerin - drums
Chris Roy - vocals/bass
Chris Pellerin - guitars

The Actual (1997)
Satellite Sessions (2000)
The Next Stage (2002) (demo)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: July 25th 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website:
Hits: 781
Language: english


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