Zero Hour – Dark Deceiver
Score - 4.5/5
I always approach prog albums with a certain sense of apprehension. When it is done well I lose my mind; when it is done poorly I’m left asking “have these guys lost their fucking minds?” Luckily Dark Deceiver is the former and not the later.
The album builds off of guitar work that adeptly walks the line of experimentation and continuity, its explorative without losing the overall sense of melody. Underlying this is some phenomenal bass guitar that at times steals the listener’s attention from the equally phenomenal guitar work. Added to the mix are vocals that perfectly articulate the mood and tension created by the instrumentation, and drum work that truly rises to the challenge of odd time signatures and frequent tempo changes.
The main attraction on the album is the guitar work of Jasun Tipton. At times heavy and hook laden, at other times light and explorative, the guitar on this album truly creates the sense of going on a journey. This is truly complex guitar, not just technically complex, but also in the sense that all the parts are interwoven to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Lots of albums feature a mix of varied time signatures, winding riffs, and soupy hooks, but what sets this album apart is the final product. If I had to describe it in one word I would say intriguing. As a guitar player I truly wonder what inspires Tipton and the choices he makes on this album.
The vocals are amazing, not in the sense that Chris Salinas is that much better than person x, y, or z, but that the vocals truly fit the mood of exploration on the album. In my personal opinion one of the hallmarks of excellent vocals is that tonal articulation matches the mood of the album. I find that a lot of prog bands have vocals that sound like they were just put over top of the song, instead of being an integral part of the music. Not so on Dark Deceiver, amazing as the instruments are on this album, they would be about half as good with out the carefully articulated vocals of Salinas.
The bass work on this album is phenomenal. Precise, and driven, Troy Tipton’s use of walking jazz basslines compliments the guitar and vocals nicely and helps propel the songs. On the song Tendonitis he also shows his ability to shred as well. The drumming is also excellent, a great variation of bass and hi-hat comping are used accentuate the other instruments, while creative crescendos and decrescendos are used to help transition the frequent tempo changes in the songs.
The instrumentation and vocals on this album have been carefully orchestrated to create an experience that the listener can appreciate on multiple levels. How can I put this? Its more like lasagne than spaghetti sauce. Obviously albums like this aren’t for everyone, I wouldn’t say something like “there are some real head bangers on this album” which is what some people are looking for with their metal. I’m not going to guarantee that everyone will like it, but I can say objectively that the instrumental and vocal work on this album are expertly done, and I gave it a high mark because I can’t find a flaw with the album.
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