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(44 min, The Laser's Edge/Sensory)
TRACK LIST: 1. Intro 0:06 2. There for Me 4:37 3. Destiny is Sorrow 8:01 4. Brain Surgery 3:13 5. Losing Control 3:46 6. Twice the Pain 4:20 7. Somnecrophobia 3:10 8. A Fragile Mind 11:34 9. Intrinsic 5:24 LINEUP: Jasun Tipton - guitars; keyboards Troy Tipton - basses Fred Marshall - vocals Mike Guy - drums
Prolusion. The US quartet ZERO HOUR has existed since 1997. Their discography comprises three full-length CDs: the eponymous debut album (1999, was reissued by The Laser's Edge/Sensory in 2003), "Towers of Avarice" (2001) and "A Fragile Mind" (2005), during the recording sessions of which the band's personnel underwent some changes, for the first time in their history. The original singer behind the microphone, Erik Rosvold, has given way to Fred Marshall.
Analysis. Those who've heard "Towers of Avarice" can consider themselves half in the know of where the new Zero Hour album is steering right from the start. Yes, it's mainly a cerebral, hyper-complex Techno Thrash (which is surely just Prog-Metal in substance) with a challenging structural style and clear dramatic vocals. In terms of quality however, "A Fragile Mind" is noticeably better than its predecessor. Not counting the very brief Intro, which is indeed an intro to There for Me as if accidentally placed on a separate track, it's made up of eight works, most of which are true progressive killers and none is a lightweight. The advocates of Prog-Metal's purity will notice the difference between instrumental arrangements (which are always extremely intricate, particularly in the rhythmic patterns) and vocal lines (featuring quite a few repetitions) on the real opening number, There for Me, but the instrumental section in the middle will bring them to Heaven, dumping all their blaze. The further tracks are so eventful that no one covering all of the genre's directions will remain indifferent towards them. The 8-minute semi-epic Destiny is Sorrow is certainly multi-sectional in construction. It's like a furious mountain river, endlessly changing its course among rocks and rarely finding a quiet backwater, as also is Somnecrophobia, one of the two instrumental pieces. Brain Surgery and Losing Control reveal a larger amount of transparent and relatively quiet arrangements, the overall picture getting closer to Battle Space Metal, pioneered by Voivod back in the second half of the '80s (God rest Piggy's soul). The Tipton brothers provide all the basic themes, not frequently playing their parts in unison, but even when they do that, a drummer, Mike Guy, always pounds counterpoint beats, so the overall picture remains a complete enigma upon the first spin. Besides, probably everywhere in the sections with intense arrangements there is an interesting combination of highly angular instrumental backings with contrastingly melodic vocal lines. The quantity of sudden waterfalls is lesser on Twice the Pain and on the epic A Fragile Mind, and yet, these are my favorites, particularly the latter, which is largely instrumental. The mood ranges from atmospheric to aggressive, the overall picture being Space Rock with elements of Techno Metal and numerous acoustic guitar passages, the music possessing an almost physically perceptible hypnotism in spite of the songs' complexity. On the last track, Intrinsic, Jasun Tipton for the first time plays keyboards, never switching over to guitar. This is an instrumental piece and is a lush, dramatic and beautiful, symphonic Space Rock in pure form.
Conclusion. Zero Hour is not only a group of virtuosos; this is a highly intelligent band, whose technical possibilities totally coincide with their compositional ambitions. Those into an intellectual Techno Metal with spacey tendencies and clear, never brutal, vocals, e.g. Voivod ("Outer Limits"), Garden Wall ("Towards the Silence"), Sieges Even ("Life Cycle") and Fates Warning ("The Spectre Within"), will definitely find Zero Hour worthy of exploration.
VM: November 8, 2005
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