My A To Z Music Challenge: Letter Z – Zero Hour

Of all of the letters of the alphabet, Z was the easiest one to decide upon. When I decided to plunge into this A To Z Challenge some bands came to mind right away. Finding a band to correspond to some of the letters of the alphabet was a challenge. For letter Z there was only one choice and that was the American progressive/technical metal band Zero Hour. Although the band has been defunct now for nine years they still remain one of my favorite metal bands. Over the course of their fifteen year career the band, lead by the astonishing Tipton Twins, released five albums. Three of those albums are classics of the genre.

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Throughout their brilliant career the band employed three vocalists: Erik Rosvold, Fred Marshall and Chris Salinas. All three are extremely strong vocalists. They had to be in order to sing over the band’s technically proficient metal music. The twins, Jason on guitar and Troy, on bass were so locked in rhythmically, it was as if they were one person. Mike Guy, seemingly effortless on the drums, was the glue holding down some extremely complex rhythm arrangements.

Zero Hour specialized in highly complex, yet melodic, progressive metal. Listening to their music one hears the influences of heavy metal, progressive rock, progressive metal, jazz and thrash metal. Apart from their first album the bulk of the music was guitar driven.

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The band’s second album, The Towers Of Avarice (2001), is their masterpiece. For my money it is one of the best metal albums of the last thirty  years. This was vocalist Erik Rosvold’s second and last album with the band. He exited the band  on an extreme high note. Rosvold puts on an absolute vocal clinic over the course of the album. He is an extremely powerful vocalist who sounds like a mix of Ronnie James Dio and a young Geoff Tate.

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Musically The Towers Of Avarice is the band’s most complex album. Special mention must be made to drummer Mike Guy for holding down some challenging rhythms. Words can not adequately describe the brilliance on display from Jason and Troy Tipton. The caliber of musicianship that they display is stunning. The Towers Of Avarice is an album that needs to be heard. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it will be almost impossible to ignore the talent of the band.

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After Rosvold left, the band employed two subsequent vocalists. Fred Marshall came and went with A Fragile Mind (2005). Marshall was a solid vocalist. For better or worse, he came on board for the hastily produced follow-up to The Towers Of Avarice. A Fragile Mind is a good album that had the misfortune of following an absolute gem.

Chris Salinas sang on the band’s last two albums. Salinas was a perfect fit for the band. He is a powerful vocalist who sounds like a mix of Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson. The band got back on track with their excellent fourth album Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond (2006). The fifth album, Dark Deceiver (2008), was by far the band’s heaviest.

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Everything was in place for Zero Hour to conquer the progressive metal scene. Unfortunately something unforseen occurred. Bassist Troy Tipton found himself in need of surgery on both of his arms. This was the end of the band. Even with his eventual recovery, playing the extremely complex bass lines of the band’s music would prove too difficult.

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In the wake of the demise of Zero Hour the Tipton Twins have remained active. In 2010 they formed the progressive metal band Cynthesis which reunited them with vocalist Erik Rosvold. In 2011 they formed the instrumental progressive metal band Abnormal Thought Patterns with drummer Mike Guy. These bands continue to showcase the brilliance of the Jason and Troy Tipton. Both bands are highly recommended.

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