Zero Hour - A Fragile Mind Review
by Matt Hensch
Lightning never strikes twice, chips will always be on shoulders, and idioms really do a good job at summarizing situations. Zero Hour are perhaps one of the most important progressive metal bands to have seeded from the United States and are responsible for achieving utter magnificence throughout their early work that zoomed into technicality without losing a sense of melody, which sparked so much creativity and power in the band that it's no mystery why "Towers of Avarice" is considered a landmark release in just about every way. "A Fragile Mind," however, seems like a natural outing considering Zero Hour's metamorphic identity and exile of singer Erik Rosvold. The ideas aren't as fresh, the performances aren't as riveting, the creativity isn't as compelling, and the mathematical mysticism provides less power and structure than before, but "A Fragile Mind" still provides a unique slab of material only Zero Hour could have forged.
Frankly, Zero Hour's direction lays back a bit on all the academics and focuses on digestible structuring, obviously creating songs driven more so by riffs than atmosphere. Being that Zero Hour is Zero Hour, it's actually a comfortable transition for one concrete reason: they don't screw it up. One could say their path is more in tune with modernism, but Zero Hour still dishes out their electronic bloodline: Jasun Tipton's virtuoso guitar work, Troy Tipton's psychotic bass plucking up and down, and Fred Marshall's explosive voice that sounds so much like his predecessor it isn't even possible to tell the two apart. Things turn a little sour when three songs crammed in the middle of the record swiftly devalue Zero Hour's decency by rehashing previously-used riffs and patterns, producing banal carbon copies in more ways than one; certainly derailing an unusually-successful listening experience for a cluster of musical charades, hopping here and there with no noteworthy aftermath.
A much-needed insurrection suddenly occurs when the title track rolls around, revamping the album's direction in a way that potently illustrates a lush resonance of simple yet power riffs, phenomenal lead guitar work, and an ending melody which enthralls with each sequence; the song itself is a conscious demonstration of Zero Hour's absolute power. None of the record's woes stop the title track - an eleven minute monolith - from being completely excellent when everything is said and done, thankfully. Nothing really comes between the album and the listeners enjoyment beyond that, making the universal effort feel both omnipotent and rightfully rejuvenated.
"A Fragile Mind" isn't Zero Hour's finest hour, but it certainly gives radioactive testament to one of progressive metal's most unique and creative leaders furthering their sullen biography through cryptic measures and a hint of moonstruck magic that provides much more substance than the average bear. I'd definitely check out the band's other releases, which are - bluntly putting it - sharpened at an all-around superiority than "A Fragile Mind," perhaps because the album is a bit more modern and definitely winks at several mainstream norms instead of Zero Hour's signature blueprints. Still, it's certainly worth a listen.
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