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Zero Hour: Agenda 21
Zero Hour - Agenda 21 Album Art

Zero Hour: Agenda 21

(Modern) Progressive Metal
3.5/5.0

If the band Zero Hour seems to have you scratching your memory for some recognition, I can hardly blame you. We haven't had a studio album from the band since 2008. Formed in the early Nineties by brothers Jasun (guitar) and Troy Tipton (bass) the California-based band had a prolific and terrific run of albums, six between 1998 and 2008. But an injury befell Troy to the effect that he could not play bass and the band disbanded. Members went on to different projects. For example Jasun was involved with Cynthesis and Abnormal Thought Patterns.

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Zero Hour

Make a 12 year leap to 2020, and Jasun with long-serving vocalist Erik Rosvold reunited to resurrect Zero Hour. The duo recruited new members bass player Andreas Blomqvist from Seventh Wonder and drummer Roel van Helden from Powerwolf. Jasun met the latter fellow when he was with an earlier band Sun Caged where both bands played in support for Liquid Tension Experiment.

With the band back together, Zero Hour releases their seventh studio album Agenda 21, now signed to the Frontiers Music label. In deference to those who do not know Zero Hour, the quartet plays heavy, dark, sometimes fast progressive metal with a strong focus on individual instrumental skills and creative, moderately, technical arrangements. While that is a long description some elements can be parceled out from within the songs. One is simply brisk and heavy, playful and technical riffs and guitar lines from Jasun Tipton. Another is the breadth and depth of the rhythm section that provides equally elaborate rhythms bolstered by groove and lead by some impressive (and easily heard) Blomqvist bass lines. (You'll often see him pictured with a six-string bass.) Underneath you'll find a dash of synths, nothing all that elaborate, but more like texture and/or atmosphere. Vocalist Rosvold sings clean and melodic easily following the arrangements as his lyrics follow the twist and turns of the same. His vocal presence also adds to the song melody and harmony which, like some prog, can be swallowed by the technical wonkery.

All these elements gel throughout this album with some interesting results. Mostly, when I think of prog metal, my mind and likes go to Dream Theater, Spock's Beard, and some Symphony X, all of which take neon-classical prog rock and simply give it metal edge. (I'm being quite reductionistic in that description.) Alternatively, Zero Hour reminds me more of a modern equivalent stronger, heavier, and with more punch from the riffs and rhythm. This cause me, at first spin, to often miss the variations and imaginations of the arrangements. That's to say, a genre fan (as usual) must give Agenda 21 more than a few spins to appreciate. For example, Technocracy as notable vocal segues in the arrangement, yet with this frenzied instrumental breakdown about four minutes in. Stigmata roars along with riffs and rhythm section, and prominent bass only to drop a delightful piano and vocal segue midpoint. Later, a breakdown returns with emphasis, not only on vocals, but synths and a strong bass line, then the song eases out with the synths. Another song with a terrific vocal and bass breakdown is the title track. It's curious, however, even after several spins I cannot point to large guitar solo. Perhaps my focus went elsewhere throughout (bass likely). All said, Agenda 21 is a fine return to form for Zero Hour wherein the band offer listeners sophisticated, perhaps more modern, progressive metal developed around muscular musical talent and strong songwriting. Recommended.




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The Take Away

All said, Agenda 21 is a fine return to form for Zero Hour wherein the band offer listeners sophisticated, perhaps more modern, progressive metal developed around muscular musical talent and strong songwriting. Recommended.

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