ZERO HOUR - THE TOWERS OF AVARICE - SENSORY
Zero Hour is a US progressive metal band which, while new to these ears, has an independent CD and possesses the power and confidence of a band of older age. The Towers Of Avarice seems to be a concept album dwelling upon a futuristic society where humans are sacrificed for technology and serve The Tower. Produced with clarity and power, the album's highlights are multi-fold. While overall inspired by older Dream Theater, the band displays enough particular strengths to deserve a thumb up. The vocals of Erik Rosvold are clear and powerful, and can take on many tones. At times reminiscent of the vocals of Iced Earth or Savatage, Rosvold can master both the higher and lower registers. Another strength here is the talent mastered by six stringer Jasun Tipton. Listening to his many tempos and ideas is what ultimately allows this album to shine. He can attack the guitar at a frantic pace beautifully as evidenced on one of the solos of Demise And Vestige and yet can delicately approach the notes later at the ten minute mark of the same song. Not to be left behind, is bassist Troy Tipton who refuses to follow the rest of the band and insists on making things a little more interesting. On a weaker note is the drumming of Mike Guy who, on this album, seems to have been replaced by the services of Yamaha 231. The Metallian recalls how disappointing it was to note that the 'drumming' on Dream Theater's Images And Words is nothing but a soulless drum machine. Similarly here, one has to wonder what this album could have been with emotional and powerful drumming. As disappointing as the lack of drumming is, The Towers is a good progressive album that is enhanced by a crystal clear sound and an enigmatic cover art work. Fans of progressive metal have little to weigh with this release from Sensory Records. - Ali "The Metallian"
ZERO HOUR - METAMORPHOSIS - SENSORY
This is the re-release of this 1998 album. The album was originally an independent release and has now been issued by the band's US label. Much like the bands heroes, Dream Theater, Metamorphosis is an accomplished, calculated and precise progressive album. The keyboards accompany a tight rhythm section and the occasional burst of guitar gymnastics. Alas, the album is often more subdued than it really needs to be. The band has it in itself to excite and explode more than its output here and, we now know that, it does in the future. In the meanwhile, those who missed this album or those who are looking for an alternative to Dream Theater will probably like Metamorphosis. - Ali "The Metallian"
ZERO HOUR - A FRAGILE MIND - SENSORY
Zero Hour's new album is the perfect marriage of technical dexterity and heaviness. Incorporating some elements of progressive metal and the power metal of bands like Nevermore, Zero Hour (now featuring singer Fred Marshall) has recorded an amazing album that is going to address the cravings of both camps' fans. Marshall has a strong and fluid voice and allows the music to breathe. The instruments all shine and flaunt their stuff. Bass guitar fans, in particular, will like A Fragile Mind for its multiple and complex bass runs, sound and chugging presence. The album's closing number Intrinsic flaunts the instruments really well, as does the instrumental Somnecrophobia. The latter repeats its riffs and incorporates Classical pieces as well. The songs are mostly of average length, but the band slips in a couple of long opus numbers which nonetheless end too quickly. Such is the quality of the band's compositions. Brain Surgery is probably the album's weakest song, but it still would stand up well against anything else out there nowadays.
As noted, he band is largely original, but one still has to wonder whether allusions to the band's closest comparison are mere coincidences. Witness lines like, "Sanctuary's calling me", "Ecstasy calling me" or "Never more to be ignored." Too bad about the grammatical mistakes (like 'their' instead of 'they're'); otherwise A Fragile Mind is nearly perfect. - Ali "The Metallian"
ZERO HOUR – SPECS OF PICTURES BURNT BEYOND – SENSORY
It is positively lazy to say so, but Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond is like the clinical meeting point of Nevermore and Dream Theater. Forged in both heaviness and technicality, the newest album of these perennial underachieving Americans is yet another amazing feat of precision metal.
Truth is that Zero Hour is less about playing and more about executing music. The stop-and-go rhythms, fluid yet impossible leads, multi-pronged drumming and the flawless singing all synchronize to just what the band probably intended. It is as if the band knows exactly where it wants to go and simply plots the course. Apparently, some make precision sound effortless. If there is one fault that could be leveled at the new album, and the band behind it, then that would be the almost mechanical interchange of heavy and slow parts. The band’s reversion to more quiet and subdued moments, while subconsciously designed to elevate the heavier moments, is repeated one too many times. The band goes back to that well too often and at a cost to the album’s steadfastness.
Zero Hour is often labeled progressive, and rightfully so, but the current album enjoys a heaviness partly derived from a new singer, omission of keyboards, tight synchronization of different parts and an amazing technical depth. To dismiss the album would be a mistake for those who generally deride or avoid progressive metal – Ali “The Metallian”
ZERO HOUR – DARK DECEIVER – SENSORY
It is difficult imagining how a band can get any more tight and coordinated than Zero Hour. Dark Deceiver is the extension of the band’s combination staccato hardness and note-tapping technicality wrapped in the shell of a cohesive unit throwing riffs like the hammer of Thor. Take the title track for instance. Heavy as all hell, varied and flying at mach-level kph it is a machine gun let loose through the speaker – although a better example of this last attribute is the album-closer Severed Angels.
Where the band has more difficulty convincing are the out of the ordinary vocal variations and experimentations. With a stable line-up in hand the band has allowed singer Chris Salinas to experiment and fiddle with his delivery (seemingly) to his heart’s delight. The result is a mix bag that sometimes is not altogether sensible and can even be disconcerting. Perhaps that is what he and the band wanted. Given the theme of multiplicity Dark Deceiver has only one song with a length over ten minutes (Inner Spirit) and only another that is over six minutes, namely The Temple Within. Guitar solo and especially bass solo lovers are not left behind as usual. Tendonitis should make bass players green with envy, but not because the song features an MC!
Dark Deceiver is everything and anything in the progressive metal arena. Zero Hour is tender, manic, heavy all over, and interestingly listenable despite the odd signatures, sounds and changes. Threshold is still a better pick for me in the sub-genre, but Zero Hour is a far more adventures excursion in the wide world of progressive metal than Meshuggah. Whether the listener will fully be convinced with the Chris’ odder moments is t.b.d. though. – Ali “The Metallian”
Whether labelled as or described by fans as progressive metal, techno metal or plain heavy metal Zero Hour is a band that deserves accolade for its brand of innovative and creative music. The California group, lead by the Tipton brothers, has recently released what many consider its best outing, Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond. Guitarist Jasun Tipton was ecstatic when calling Ali "The Metallian" for a wide-ranging discussion. - 05.05.2007
METALLIAN: Jasun, Zero Hour is almost fifteen years old and in the meantime has released several albums, toured and flown to Europe and travelled. How does that change one's perspective?
JASUN: It does give you a different perspective. I have always had friends and family all over the world. My dad lives in Moscow, Russia and my mother has always had friends in Spain and Holland. I have always known people from outside America. Of course, going out there and experiencing it is amazing. They truly have a passion for the music you play. As of late, America's scene has picked up, but it is an amazing thing to travel and see different countries. There are so many great people in this world. I don't make a living out of music - well technically I do because I give guitar lessons - but music has given me so much through travelling and meeting new people. I think everybody should travel. Iceland was the most amazing experience. It is a beautiful country and the people are so awesome there. I look forward to going back to Iceland next year. We will have a new album next year and we will go back.
METALLIAN: Would your music had been any different had you not travelled outside the USA?
JASUN: No, I mean, this is something I grew up with. My dad was a huge Elvis fan; my middle name is Elvis! He is a huge James Brown and R&B fan. My mom was into jazz like George Benson and Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. There was so much music being played in my house that you couldn't help, but be into it. The band has no limits. We can do jazz one moment, we can do new-age, we can do metal and we can… we are in a genre where we can do anything to express ourselves. I don't think travelling to Europe has changed my outlook on music. I just have a love of doing different styles and we are so in sync as a band. It inspires you to write another great album though because it is a great scene out there. The music is built inside you. I love bands like Killswitch Engage, Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan, but I also like Dream Theater and Tool. We were into the Shrapnel Records bands when we were growing up. You take a little piece of everything. We were always thinking things out when we were young. My girlfriend says I am always thinking of music. It takes you over.
METALLIAN: What do you think of the city you live in, namely Pleasanton?
JASUN: Pleasanton is awesome. I dig it. It is a quiet place. I was in San Francisco and lived in San Jose all my life where our studio still is. Now in Pleasanton it is peaceful and calm, but I go to San Jose all the time.
METALLIAN: What do you think of America as a country and as a concept?
JASUN: Well, I am definitely not ashamed of being an American. I love this country as I love many countries for that matter. We have many great things here in America and other countries have great things. I would like to mix all the positives up. You could go to a restaurant here and have big portions of food. It could be all-you-can-eat or a buffet. Europe is extremely expensive and the dollar right now is quite weak. I ask people how they get by and they tell me it is tough. You can easily spend thirteen Euros on a bite to eat, even at McDonalds.
I am not for the fact that we went into Iraq. I am sure it is a part of the question that you are posing. I wish things were different in that way, but there are a lot of great people in this country. I teach a ton of kids of different religions and backgrounds and I hope that people feel the same way as I do.
METALLIAN: Is there a discernible difference between the American and non-USA music scenes in our shrinking world?
JASUN: Coming from the Bay Area that had a phenomenal scene at one point I can tell you that the music scene is not thriving here anymore. It has been really rough on the club bands. That is why I am involved in the Bay Area Rock Fest. We are trying to get bands to come this way. Clubs like Stone, Cactus Club, The Pound, Bed Rock, Omni, The Edge and on and on had great shows and are all gone. We used to have really good ins with these places. When grunge came out - and I am not faulting grunge for this - no one wanted to go out and see a live band for whatever reason. I would go to clubs and they were empty. Now clubs are afraid of opening up. In Europe, the same clubs we played in 2001 are still up and running. I still see the same people come out and see us in Europe. Those people go out constantly to see show after show. People over here just stopped seeing shows. That is one thing I could say is different.
A lot of things in Europe are volunteer-based, which helps the venues keep going. The clubs have more overhead here. Even the sound guys are volunteering in Europe!
METALLIAN: North Americans are more trend-oriented and influenced by the limited and concentrated media we have. In the mid-'90s, for instance, people weren't into grunge. They were into a couple of big grunge bands.
JASUN: The bands were all the same. There were some good bands, but all the metal band members I knew changed their looks and went directly into grunge. You could tell this is a metal band playing grunge and you could tell that there was nothing organic about it. They went from being called Uncle Nasty or Metal Lives to grunge bands with names like Drop! I thought it was bizarre how people changed overnight from leather and spikes to flannel and shorts. Those guys brushed their hairs and grew beards. I think you gotta love the material you play before people get to love it. People are smart and can see through it. I think Europeans are less distracted. Here we have hockey, football and basketball, while in Europe they are into the arts. They go to museums, go to concerts and sing the lyrics with you. They get passionate with the music. We have some passionate people here too, but I have to say Europe wins on this one. I like it when people close their eyes and sing the lyrics. I really like that.
METALLIAN: As a variation to the question, seeing that you are getting married this week, how would marriage affect your music and your interaction with the band?
JASUN: Yeah, yeah, no doubt. I hear you, man. What you ask is not rubbish because I have seen marriage change guys. I had friends who said music is their lives and nothing would change them and they are not into music anymore. I have seen people who got into relationships and things change - even one of my students met a girl and he was no longer doing band duties - but my girlfriend knew I was into the music when we met. I have a strong relationship with my brother who lives with us. My girlfriend is one of our biggest fans, which helps out. She helps with our web site and press and always wants to hear our music. She always has either Killswitch Engage or us in her ipod. Some guys might be impressionable of a lady, and it is so funny, and all of a sudden change overnight. Mike, our drummer has a family but he never gave up on the music.
It is funny because I know some guys who start practising when they don't have a girlfriend and they are practising just to get a chick. I knew this guy who would say that is why he is doing it. He would get on stage, meet a chick and then he would get out of his band! I have been with my beautiful lady for over three years. I told her this is what I do and if I don't do it I won't be happy. We would not have met if it weren't for the band. If the music changes it would be because all of us want it to, but no, nothing will change. As a matter of fact, our next album will be rad. We just finished a brand new song and it is great! The new material is more technical. We have gone a little crazy on that. It will not be as exotic or ethnic as before however. The material will have a lot of technical patterns and passages. It will have the clean and lush passages that build the dynamics.
METALLIAN: One of my personal gripes is how people have turned the term 'progressive' into a style of music. The description should denote change and originality; not a constant sound or one style.
JASUN: You make a great point there. Progressive is something new and now it is a genre and a category. It was never meant to be that. I don't know why they did that. I cannot keep up with the genres and terms. They have hardcore, grindcore, christcore and I am lost at this point. When they put progressive in that category with Yes and Pink Floyd it is meaningless on its own. I guess it makes it fun and interesting for me to try to figure it all out.
Absolutely, it is contradictory. People make up these terms. Whoever came up with 'metal' and the term 'heavy metal' is cool though!
METALLIAN: What do you think of Manowar?
JASUN: I remember seeing their videos back in the day and thinking those guys must be big and huge. I wouldn't call Manowar one of my favourite bands though. They are good, but I wouldn't reach out and get their CDs. I am a big Rainbow fan. At the time of Headbangers Ball I would check out Manowar, but they are not a band that I would listen to on a regular basis.
METALLIAN: Jasun, I cannot let you go without asking you about the music business. Zero Hour has been with the same label for a while so what do you think of the future of the music business?
JASUN: (Kissing and speaking to his beautiful miniature miniature pinscher at the same time)… I kinda lost track of your question, sorry!
I love the label we are on. Ken Golden of The Laser's Edge has been extremely honest with us. I can appreciate that. We have received many contracts from many labels and the thing you hear over the telephone is one thing and what you receive in writing is absolutely a different thing. You ask yourself if the label is the same as the one we were speaking with on the phone! Who was on the phone? It is ridiculous. Then the label says we never change our contracts. We have worldwide contracts. Then they don't have distributions in certain areas! I just have a great relationship with Ken. We have one-album contracts, but we will probably stay with them. I go out and have dinner with he and his wife when I am on the East Coast. He is an honest guy and tries for us. He has also kicked up his promotion and distribution.
Congratulations go to Jasun and Christina on their marriage. The guitarist, his brother bassist Troy Tiptun, drummer Mike Guy and singer Chris Salinas have a web site at www.zerohourweb.com. The band's most recent record is entitled Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond.
TIPTON: I slept late last night. I was working on ProTools. I was working on some ideas. BBC had Live From Abbey Road on last night and they had Natasha Bedingfield and Iron Maiden on it. I was checking that out until two in the morning.
The voice belongs to Jasun Tipton, the guitarist for Zero Hour who frankly sounds rather groggy at 9:00 am Pacific Time. He, his brother Troy, drummer Mike Guy and singer Chris Salinas have just released Dark Deceiver, which explains the interview. Ali “The Metallian” wants to know all about the new release. – 14.06.2008
METALLIAN: It is clear that the new album’s title, Dark Deceiver, has a correlation to the cover artwork, but first of all what can you tell me about the name?
TIPTON: Dark Deceiver is a horror story about a guy who goes into a dream state with his wife or girlfriend next to him. He dreams that he is choking and that he has this other side and he is killing her. He then wakes up and sees that he is covered in blood. He has two sides to him. Troy was into horror movies when he grew up. When he heard the song he said, “This has different movements and would be cool with a darker subject matter.” The other songs have a positive vibe. Dark Deceiver is heavy and Troy wanted a darker title and theme.
METALLIAN: If so, why would you pick the anomaly as the album’s title?
TIPTON: It was a cool title. We first wanted to call the album Power To Believe, but King Crimson had that so thought it was not a good idea. Then we thought Dark Deceiver is cool, is more technical, has more substance and sits well with our musical output.
METALLIAN: How do you reckon that the rest of the album is more positive when one sees title like Tendonitis, Lies or Severed Angel?
TIPTON: OK, but if you talk about the majority of the album you will see that those are positive. Power To Believe and Inner Spirit are together twenty minutes long and quite positive. Resurrection is positive. Those are actually parts one, two and three of a story line. The story is about a young Native American tribe leader who is risking his life by leading the enemy into uncertain territory so that his tribe is not exposed. When he feels that he is pushed to the limit he looks to the sky and the spirit of his parents help him clear his mind and find the answer. It is a dynamic chapter built with landscapes and movement. We were going to do a concept album with this story and we had Chris writing the lyrics. He had The Temple Within – which we already had before the last album - and the Passion Of Words. With all these, we were going for a positive attitude. The Temple Within is about a man going to war for his passion and faith. That is the one Chris came up with. Troy helped him with that.
METALLIAN: How did the offbeat vocal experimentations come about?
TIPTON: My brother and I were singing everything into the recorder and sending it to Chris. It was really difficult for Chris to pick them up. He was having a hard time coming in at the right time. For us it seemed really simple, but it was a bit of a struggle for Chris. He couldn’t hear exactly what we were doing even though we had already on tape for him. We actually went to play a show with Queensrÿche in Texas and afterwards we went to his house in Texas to help him track it. For us, it seems like those were the melodies. We like to think of the voice as an instrument as well. That doesn’t mean following everything. This album has a lot of cool layering that perhaps the vocals didn’t have before.
METALLIAN: Who is the ‘MC’ on the album?
TIPTON: Aah, Cameron Alden. He is sound engineer Dino’s son. Cameron is an awesome kid. We had him do the song Tendonitis for my brother. He is also at the end of Power To Believe with the line about ‘hope for a future.’ He had four lines on that song. He is seven years old. He really enjoyed doing the lines. Cam is cool. My brother and I are big kids and Cam is happy to see us. Dino’s got a cool kid there.
METALLIAN: On the musical front, how much tighter can Zero Hour get?
TIPTON: When we wrote 2006’s Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond we knew we had a good album. Our focus was not to try to make a better album, but to make a better album. That is, we are going to push the limits of what we have. My brother and I really interacted a lot of lines together. We did a lot of writing in and out of the studio. There was a lot more preparation for this album. This album took a different shape. My brother was really strict asking Mike to do this and that. My brother usually writes all the drum parts. Other albums were very organic. Still, I believe we can push the envelope even more and be tighter.
On this album, you can hear three-part harmonies where a line is said and then intertwines with a totally different melody over it. Then you can hear a polyrhythm of parts of the song with the vocals over the music. It is very difficult to play but flows very easily. I think we will be up to the task going forward.
METALLIAN: What do you think of the comparisons Zero Hour gets with Meshuggah?
TIPTON: I think Meshuggah is a great band. I own their CDs. We do not sound like them. They are definitive in their sound and we are definitive in ours. There is a whole different outlook between our bands. Some of the riffing, we both use seven strings – although I think they use eight strings now – so maybe we are defining the genre we play in. We do polyrhythms too, which Meshuggah loves. We had those earlier in our career. They like to follow formats, but we don’t except maybe on Dark Deceiver. Ultimately though, we do not sound like Meshuggah.
METALLIAN: How is the band gelling?
TIPTON: To be honest, there was more interaction on Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond than on this album. My brother and I took complete control of this album. That was not by choice. Chris was dealing with some problems in his personal life – going through a divorce – and he was running behind on material. It was like A Fragile Mind which took a long time to come out. You have to strike while the iron is hot when writing material. You can’t wait years because things come to a standstill. I didn’t want another A Fragile Mind. I gave Chris a CD of The Passion Of Words and he didn’t have lyrics so my brother and I just took the initiative.
METALLIAN: Is Chris fully committed to the band?
TIPTON: People go through tough times in their lives. Chris always tells us that he is committed this and that, but I was not going to wait around. I am guy who when I set out to do something I just do it. Maybe Chris even found the material tough. It doesn’t come easy to people. My Brother and I finished Power To Believe in three days and Inner Spirit in maybe two weeks. We did Resurrection in a day. My brother and I have a different work ethic that everybody else in the band. That is how it is in most bands. It is no secret that my brother and I have always written all the music in this band.
METALLIAN: Are you becoming ProgPower’s house band?
TIPTON: We were the first American band to play at ProgPower Europe and we played at the first ProgPower USA. They have now asked us back for the tenth anniversary of ProgPower Europe. Now they are asking us to do ProgPower Scandinavia. That is exactly the crowd that is into our music. We have played ProgPower USA three times. It looks like we are the house band. It is a great event.
Zero Hour’s Internet home is at http://www.zerohourweb.com/home.html. Dark Deceiver is available now through the Sensory label.
This interview is dedicated to the memory of Snick the Basset Hound who was with Jasun until last year.