Reading Zero - Satellite Sessions


Year of Release: 2000
Label: self-released/Y.O.R. Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 00:00:00

Ever since Reading Zero's first release The Actual, fans of progressive metal have been waiting to see what the band had in store for them. The Actual was a disc that garnered rave reviews from just about everyone who knew what progressive metal was about ? and if they didn't like what Reading Zero had to offer musically, they at least respected what this band was all about. With their unique blend of twin guitar attack outside of a power metal approach, their twisted Fates Warning influence, a hint of keyboards to round out their sound, and excellent lyrical vision, Reading Zero was able to make a statement and put themselves on the prog metal map of the world. Throw in an absolutely superb production, and a singer who sounds like an aggressive, pissed off Ray Alder, and you've a disc that has been talked about for years. It's been a bit since their first outing, but Reading Zero is back with their new disc, and they are making another statement to the prog metal world.

THE STYLE:

Like The Actual, Satellite Sessions is a twin guitar, vocally/lyrically driven disc that relies heavily on atmosphere and style. The difference between the two discs outwardly is the attitude - Satellite Sessions definitely is a more aggressive, less happy feeling disc than The Actual. The sound here is filled with a more gloomy, slow grinding atmosphere and pace with an aggressive undertone that shows the band has a bone to pick with either the progressive metal genre itself or with themselves. The music is somewhat dark, brooding, and someone is definitely pissed off in this band as indicated by the somber mood of the lyrics, imaginative as they are.

What sets Reading Zero apart from the rest of the pack are two things -- one, they don't sound like anyone else, and two, their unique twin guitar sound is unlike any other approach I've heard in any band. The only way to describe this sound is two guitars playing in the same key, but playing totally different melodies yet somehow managing to blend seamlessly into one sound. It's a very unique sound that is heard on both discs, and is certainly one of their trademarks.

The music is sort of a hybrid mix of a Fates Warning/slight Queensryche sound but without copying or cloning either band. It plods along regularly on this outing with a slow grinding pace that can't help but smell of gloom at times. The song structures are based around mid to slow paced beats, filled with two guitars worth of different-but-simultaneous melodies, and tempo changes at every turn. There is also an interesting mix of coldness layered under the warm surface melodies, which is another signature trait of Reading Zero. You feel comfortable in the warm melodies while feeling a bit cold at the somber mood of the music. Again, the aggressive attitude of the music is evident ? and during their great performance at Powermad 2000, you could easily see and feel the aggressive energy being given off by the songs and band members. In particular, the vocal style of Chris Roy has also taken a turn into aggression, and he is singing like what I call a "pissed of Ray Alder". There is much more attitude and aggression in his voice, and his range has skyrocketed as well.

THE VOCALS

I've always maintained that Chris Roy sounds a lot like a younger Ray Alder, especially in his higher range. He has a high pitched voice like Alder, but injects it a lot with a Dave Mustaine sounding attitude, giving his voice a very aggressive tone. He sings with conviction and aggression. His voice adds more aggressive tone to the music, which is dark to start with, and the combination works great. Most of the time he chooses to stay within a mid-range tone, but he is quite able and does get up quite high with ease when he wants to. It's here in this high range that he sounds like a younger Ray Alder, able to hit the high notes with ease and conviction. At other times, he sounds like he is pissed off at the world in general ( Dave Mustaine) and carries a very aggressive tone. Overall, Chris has really cranked up the singing a few decibals, and has found his comfort zone as well as other zones most didn't know he possessed.

THE PRODUCTION:

This is where controversy comes into play ? and has with many progressive metal discs over the last few years. As prog metal discs become available, and technology becomes more available to aspiring bands, fans grow less tolerant of less than stellar productions even if attahced to their favorite bands. As in the case of indy bands, I feel that controversy can only help a band's plight, and in the case of Satellite Sessions, the debate over how well this disc sounds actually brought on much curiosity and opinions as to what discs should sound like and what discs do sound like.

In this case - right up front, this disc does not rival the great sound achieved on their previous disc, The Actual, and with good reason. The band acquired the talents of Jim Lightman to help achieve that great sound, especially on the drums which I still maintain is a standard for drum sounds. This time out, the band didn't have the money to front a producer and was forced to record the disc themselves. Personally, I've heard bands on labels that have produced recordings much worse than this one. In fact, this disc doesn't sound bad at all. In comparison to their previous disc, it obvsiously doesn't rival that sound, but it is well done with a few complaints to be made here and there.

The sound is a bit muddy, at times - it doesn't capture the clarity of The Actual?..the drum sound isn't as pronounced, and the bass isn't quite heavy in the bottom end. This isn't to say that these items can't be heard on the disc; they certainly can be heard and can be distinguished from each other, especially the guitar sound.

Lots of people complained about the processed vocals that Chris Roy likes to employ, but this has become a trademark of his, and isn't anywhere near as overbearing as I've read them to be. One personal complaint is that on track 10, "Discarding The Frame", there is some feedback that really sticks out and does become annoying almost immediately. I find it hard to believe that it was put here intentionally, but I haven't read any other reviews that point this out either so I wonder. Personally, being a stickler for sound, I'd certainly like to hear more out of this great disc in the sound dept, but for what it is, it's nowhere near a reason for not buying this disc.

THE VERDICT:

This is a no-brainer purchase for those who not only are fans of Reading Zero, but for fans of progressive metal who feel that the genre doesn't have anything new to offer. Reading Zero is clearly from the school that progressive metal doesn't have to sound a certain way, or follow certain patterns, and can progress from disc to disc without cloning oneself. The band is definitely set apart from most of the pack in the progressive metal world, opting to carry the flag for the genre and continue on their path to uniqueness. It's clear that the band can identify with itself, and is confident enough to write material that is quite different from their previous material, yet maintain their signature sound.

This is a clear example of a band that can and will progress and stay true to their personal identity, and show that American bands can still write quality progressive metal along side their overseas counterparts that make yearly statements in the prog metal world on a regular basis. Reading Zero is a classic example of commitment to the prog metal genre, and to a band that refuses to lose its identity in a tough musical world.


Tracklisting:
Project 33 / Scene Unseen / New World / Mortal Hands / When The Snow Fals / Wavelengths / Charming The Snakes / Turning Down The Sun / Drinking Tea With The Moon / Discarding The Frame / Sipping Tea

Musicians:
Chris Roy - bass, vocals, synths
Russ Pellerin - drums
Chris Pellerin - guitars
Joel Decatur - guitars

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

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin US

Added: November 1st 2000
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.readingzero.com
Hits: 749
Language: english

  

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