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3.89 | 11 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2001


1. The Towers of Avarice (7:52)
2. The Subterranean (4:11)
3. Stratagem (8:06)
4. Reflections (3:56)
5. Demise and Vestige (15:47)
6. The Ghosts of Dawn (5:30)

Total Time: 45:25


- Mike Guy / drums, percussion
- Erik Rosvold / lead vocals
- Jasun Tipton / guitars
- Troy Tipton / bass

About this release

Label: Sensory Records (CD: SR 3011)
Release date: March 6th, 2001

Written, arranged and produced by Zero Hour.
Recorded and mixed at Alden's Gate, Santa Rose, CA.
Mastered at Ocean View Digital.

Thanks to colt, UMUR for the updates


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Like a great swathe of progressive metal bands, Zero Hour are somewhat influenced by Dream Theater, though their debut album is apparently where you will hear that the most. This followup to that is notably more aggressive and dark than Dream Theater; imagine if Megadeth at their most technically complex (say, on Rust In Peace) ended up incorporating just a bit more prog into their approach, and you'll end up with something not a million miles away from this, especially when it comes to Erik Rosvold's lead vocals.

The band seem to particularly like their staccato playing, and the absence of a dedicated keyboardist certainly helps to set their sound apart from Dream Theater - though there are keyboards on the album here and there, with no one member using them as their primary influence they are used for occasional extra texture, and the instrumentation is largely kept to a stripped-down core of guitar, bass, and drums.

It's all quite sparse and dramatic, but overall the band seem to be ploughing a fairly narrow furrow here - if you really like their overall style, you'll absolutely love the album, but I suspect most people won't want a ton of Zero Hour albums in this vein because the similarities become compositions become all too evident a mere two songs in.
"The Towers of Avarice" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based progressive metal act Zero Hour. The album was released through Sensory Records in March 2001. It´s the successor to the independently released eponymously titled debut album from 1999 (reissued by Sensory Records in 2003 titled "Metamorphosis") and features one lineup change since the predecessor as keyboard player Matt Guillory has left. Guillory has not been replaced here, and instead the keyboards on "The Towers of Avarice" are recorded by lead vocalist Erik Rosvold and guitarist Jasun Tipton.

The instrumentation on "The Towers of Avarice" is predominantly pretty stripped down to one guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, and the use of keyboards is sparse and mostly used to enhance atmopshere, which is quite a change from the omnipresence of keyboards on the predecessor. The Dream Theater influence on the debut album which was very much due to how the keyboards were played and how they were placed in the mix, is now completely gone from Zero Hour´s music, and "The Towers of Avarice" features a rather unique progressive metal sound. The music is dark, hard edged and heavy, and the more stripped down instrumentation provides the band´s sound with a raw and organic feel. The guitar riffs vary between fast-paced chromatic notes and crushingly heavy staccato riffs in odd time signatures. The bass has a life of it´s own, and both compliments the guitar, but also locks in with the heavy technical grooves of the drums, and even has some lead type sections. This is definitely in the technical end of the progressive metal spectrum, and it´s artists like Spiral Architect, Twisted Into Form, and Watchtower (and early Sieges Even, and maybe 80s Voivod is valid too), who are references rather than the more melodic and keyboard heavy artists in the genre.

"The Towers of Avarice" is a concept album telling a dark and dramatic sci-fi story with themes of oppression, hopelessness, revolt, and a selfless protagonist hero (a sort of sci-fi/on another planet take on Fritz Lang´s "Metropolis"). The sometimes alien nature of the music and the sci-fi concept story are in perfect symbiosis, and when the lyrics are performed by a world class vocalist like Rosvold, who is not only a great storyteller, but also has a strong and distinct sounding voice, and who is able to sing both melodic, amd more raw and aggressive type of vocals (and some great harmony/choir vocals too), all ends meet and the final product is a high quality technical/progressive metal album.

The tracklist should also be mentioned as "The Towers of Avarice" is consciously structured to feature a couple of strategically placed dark ballad type tracks, which bring some dynamics to an otherwise very hard edged and heavy album. "The Towers of Avarice" opens with the title track, "The Subterranean", and "Stratagem", which are all dark, heavy, and technical progressive metal tracks ("Stratagem" features a very nice and subdued melodic mid-section though), but then comes "Reflections" which is a dark ballad which features a simple non-distorted electric guitar strumming simple notes and chords, while Rosvold sings his paatos filled and melancholic vocals on top. The chorus features some keyboard backing, but that´s about it, and it´s a beautiful song. Then straight into the 15:47 minutes long "Demise and Vestige", which is another brillant technical/progressive metal track. It´s a dynamic track showing both the softer more melodic side of the band´s sound, but also the darker heavy and ultra technical side. "The Towers of Avarice" concludes with another dark ballad type piano/keyboard/vocal driven track in "The Ghosts of Dawn". It´s a dramatic end to the album, featuring a fantastic vocal performance by Rosvold.

"The Towers of Avarice" features a dark, raw, and heavy sounding production, and it´s just another high quality feature to add to the creative songwriting and the jaw-dropping musicianship. It´s not an album that´ll neccesarily click with every progressive metal listener upon initial listen. The sound is pretty unique, and the challenging song structures and sometimes odd chromatic guitar/bass runs are sure to scare off those who crave heavy doses of melody and sing-along choruses in their music, but for those up for a musical challenge and a darker, more raw, and heavy technical take on progressive metal "The Towers of Avarice" is a mandatory listen. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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.

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  • Bosh66
  • Guitar Noir
  • Immortalis
  • luanpedi
  • Colt
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