Zero Hour - Zero Hour


Year of Release: 1999
Label: self-released
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 37:50:00

It seems as though Zero Hour was just sitting back, watching the strong, but small American prog metal scene, and then decided it was time for them to make their move. The move can be likened to a bunch of kids waiting in line waiting to ride the roller coaster, and then some bigger kids nudging and shoving their way to the front of the line with little or no resistance. Out of nowhere comes this superb prog metal band with a mind of their own. A big smile comes to my face when I hear music this good, as I can already see the people scratching their heads, trying not only to figure out where this band came from, but trying to figure out who they are influenced by, or who they sound like. Isn't it strange that when music this good comes out, people try to figure out the origin of the band's sound, instead of focusing on the great music that the band has to offer. Therefore, when I mention other bands in this review, it will not be for comparison sake, but to give an idea of the type of sound that is characteristic of Zero Hour, and to provide the reader with a hint of whether or not they will like this music.

THE STYLE:

This is heavy, powerful, semi-complex prog metal. Plain and simple. What does the term "semi-complex" mean ? Well, from my point of view, I use the word "complex" to describe a sound that is less than technical, meaning that the music does not sound as calculated or overplayed as some technical bands do. In other words, music not played to determine how many notes can fit into one scale, or how many time changes can be incorporated into one part of one song. Complex to me is "busy," in a way that can be somewhat more accessible than technical, but maybe the vocal lines are out of sync with the music lines. Semi-complex means that the music is busy, with time changes, and odd song structures, but, the main difference being that the music is accessible, and the vocal lines match the song lines superbly. So, if you took Power of Omens, and toned down the song structures, making them less "busy", and throw in some heavier, crunchier guitars, and keep the same god-like version of a singer, then you would have Zero Hour. The main difference I hear between this band and other complex or technical bands is that ALL instruments, including the vocals, are perfectly in sync with each other. The disc clocks in at about 38:00, making this an EP? I guess anything under 40:00 is considered an EP, and maybe one more song would have made this more pleasing to our palates, but when the music is this good, you just hit the repeat button.

THE BAND:

A 4-piece ensemble, that hired the likes of Matt Guillory and Phillip Bennet for the keyboard parts. This is another key move in making this music sound so accessible for it's complexity; the added use of keyboards, and there are plenty to give the music a "warm" feeling. The band added the keyboards to give the listener a sense of warmth, I am guessing, to avoid being called just another complex, prog metal band. A wise move and one I personally am grateful for, as it further goes to prove my theory that prog metal can be heavy, warm, cold, emotional and busy all at the same time and still be enjoyed by a larger range of listeners. The music is driven by the nice, crunchy guitar sound of monster guitarist, Jasun Tipton. The man is obviously driven by power, and conveys this nicely, while adding his own style to the music. His heavy-but-warm style really makes this music smoke and flow smoothly. His leads are built around the same style, smoking but smooth. There is no showcasing here, just powerful, smooth, crunching prog metal guitar. His twin brother, Troy, who plays bass,has the dubious task of keeping up with his brother note for note. However, let it not be said that identical twins don't think alike, because even in music, their thought process must be identical as well, because he keeps exact time with the guitars, no easy feat I might add. The drummer is great, not trying to veer off and make his own sound like technical drummers tend to do. Keep in mind the word "sync", as this band is incredibly timed, and every note played flows very smoothly and in unison. The singer always gets place in my "vocals" section below, but let me prepare you now and say that Erik Rosvold is in that group of singers that people term "godly", including myself. I will add that in the keyboard section, I am not familiar with Phillip Bennett, but I am very familiar with Matt Guillory from Chaos Theory, Dali's Dilemma, and has played on countless other projects. His keyboard skills add a nice, complementary, atmospheric companion for Zero Hour. I am not exactly sure what roles each had in the music, but when I hear the Jens Johansson type leads throughout the disc, I tend to think it was Matt doing this thing, and do it superbly he does. The band has termed the keyboards "industrial sounding", and intentionally so, but I will disagree with them here, and say that the keyboards are much smoother and softer sounding than an industrial sound, but that is left to the listener I guess. Had someone told me "industrial" when referring to this band, I might have run the other way, but fear not, this band is far from being "industrial".

THE VOCALS:

Here is where I get to smile as I write. When you listen to singers, or at least when I do, I listen to their vocal style first, and then their vocal sound, to try to pinpoint for everyone who he is similar to in tone and style. Remember Chris Salinas of Power of Omens? He was easy to pinpoint, right ? (On a side note, how does a guy sound TOO much like Geoff Tate? I've read reviews that say that, and I scratch my head in disbelief ). Well, add one, Erik Rosvold, to the list of god-like singers. He can't help it, he has been blessed with one of those voices we all wish we had. I will describe his tone as being like a cross between Roy Khan (Conception, Kamelot) and Scott Stewart (Division). His lower, softer, emotional tones reek of Kahn in his softer Conception songs. Erik's more aggressive tone bears great resemblance to Scott Stewart's voice, who to me is still one of the best "metal" singers alive. Cross those 2 styles and you have Erik Rosvold in all of his glory. From soft, warm passages, to the aggressive, to the higher pitched harmonies, this guy can do it all. I did notice some synth-like, vocal processing going on, but then who isn't using this nowadays? I even don't mind it when it's used this sparingly, but when it's overdone, it can take away from the enjoyment of the disc, at least for me. Usually, singers this good these days are left to the Europeans to produce, but this time out, the USA has produced one of the best singers to hit prog metal in awhile.

THE PRODUCTION:

Ok, simply put, this is what ALL prog metal discs should try to achieve sonically. Not that every band should sound the same, but they should try to match up all of the instruments, the vocals, and balance them so that every one has their own time in the sound, not back in the mix, tinny, whiny, or boom shy. Now, the disc says engineered by Dino Alden, and produced by Zero Hour. If you're making a disc, try to track down this guy, or ask Zero Hour how the hell they produced a disc that sounds this great. I've said it about Reading Zero, Aztec Jade, and countless others: this is what self-produced discs should sound like, and if it means hiring a guy like Dino Alden, or the guys that engineered the mentioned bands, then go ahead and do it because great sound CAN be achieved without the use of label backing. The drums, as are always a sore spot with my ears, are what I want all drums to sound like. Huge, boomy, and with a snare drum sound that means business, not one that sounds like a tin can. The guitars are clean, crisp, and crunchy. Jasun Tipton has a style that employs little riffs throughout his chord chunking, and you can hear each little riff he employs throughout the disc. Mind boggling. The bass is ballsy, chunky, and heavy. The vocals have Erik right up front in the mix, but not overpowering the instruments. This is sync recording at it's best. The keys are right in the mix as well, and it seems that whoever plays on this disc, gets equal time and mix. Overall, just a great blend of sound, and this is one to crank up when the wife or family is not around, and enjoy pure, heavy, DB crankage at will.

THE COMMENTS:

Am I excited about this disc? Hell yeah. [Nearly] 38:00 of pure, clean, heavy, complex, prog metal with a great singer. So, who will like this disc ? Anyone into what prog metal is all about. This band doesn't fall into any one category of prog metal that we like to compare to. For instance, the opening song will remind you instantly of Nevermore, with it's powering, thunderous guitar riff, and then quickly fade into Zero Hour's signature style. The end song, Metamorphosis, ends with a Metropolis / Dream Theater type riff, but briefly. Some of the more intricate music taking place along the way reminds me of Power of Omens. So, you will hear ( briefly I might add ), some semblance of other prog metal bands, but for the most part, we've got ourselves one, genuine American prog metal band here that means business. I have to qualms about buying EP's, although as I said, it's a 38:00 EP, and I have to say that for the song "Metamorphosis" alone, I'd buy the disc. It's a bit hard for me even not to recommend this disc to any one type of listener, as I feel the disc is loaded with goodies for everyone. For the most part, I'd have to say that anyone who does not like their prog metal a little complex ( what does the prog mean, anyway ?), you won't like this. It's what progressive metal is all about. I've seen some calling this disc "disc of the year," "essential prog metal," "the new wave of prog metal", and it all fits wonderfully. When you have music of this caliber, played with absolute pure sound, with a singer that has a voice like Erik Rosvold, this is a no-thought-involved purchase. Much success to this band, and the future of prog metal looks bright producing bands like Zero Hour.


Tracklisting:
Eyes Of Denial (4:42) / The System Remains (7:22) / Voice Of Reason (8:40) / Metamorphosis: I. Descent (3:45) - II. Awaken (4:33) - III. Union (5:44) - IV. Solace (1:03) - V. Ascent (2:01)

Musicians:
Erik Rosvold - vocals
Jasun Tipton - guitars
Troy Tipton - bass
Mike Guy - drums
Matt Guillory, Phillip Bennett - keyboards

Discography:
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: October 1st 2000
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: www.zerohourweb.com
Hits: 938
Language: english

  

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