Zero Hour
The Towers of Avarice

Attention fans of progressive metal: every CD on your “must get” list just got bumped down one notch. Whatever was next on that list just got replaced by The Towers of Avarice by Zero Hour. This is quite possibly the best American prog metal record I have heard since Dream Theater’s Awake. Dark, brooding melody, aggressive staccato riffing, excellent vocal delivery and an urgent intensity all come together in a record of massive proportions.

Now, let me clarify Zero Hour’s definition of “prog metal.” There is absolutely no, I mean no, European power metal influence on this record. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (as aptly proven by the mighty Symphony X), but the world just didn’t need that again. Nor are we presented with yet another attempt at blatantly copying Dream Theater’s style. If there is any one band one can point to as Zero Hour’s closest relative, it would probably be Fates Warning. But even that comparison wouldn’t be totally accurate.

I’m reminded of Spiral Architect and the legendary Watchtower with all the syncopation, odd-time and signature changes that run through every moment of this disc. Drummer Mike Guy is simply inhuman, at times. His double kick-drum skills are relentless, and his feel for odd time is impeccable. Troy Tipton’s bass is cemented to Guy’s drumming with a round, tight tone and heavy bottom end. Guitarist Jasun Tipton really stands out as a major talent here. Combining the minimalist, melodic riff style of ’90s-era Jim Matheos with dynamic lead technique he helps create a deep, emotional landscape of sound.

Where many bands seem to fall short at times, Zero Hour excels with an exceptional vocalist. Erik Rosvold has a thick, melodic, powerful voice that delivers the lyrics with authority and conviction. His melodies are passionate, his harmonies are intense, and his tone is rich and soulful. Rosvold also serves as the bands keyboard player on this release adding dense, atmospheric synth tones.

For me to try and describe the songs individually would, I feel, do The Towers of Avarice a great injustice. This album has more gripping melody, intricate dynamics, stunning musicianship and unbridled intensity than I have heard from an American band in several years! Highlights include the musically staggering “Stratagem” whose 2-plus minute intro alone is worth the price of admission! Also, the somber yet riveting “Reflections” with it’s arid clean tones and captivating vocal melody. The 15-plus minute “Demise and Vestige” must be heard! The emotional journey that the band takes the listener on with this song is an epic one full of stratospheric peaks and desolate valleys.

To sum up, you need to go buy this record now! Zero Hour are quickly closing in on the reigning “Holy Trinity” of American prog metal (Dream Theater, Fates Warning and Symphony X) and are already establishing themselves as legends in the genre.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Shawn Pelata
March 6th, 2001

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