Troy and Jasun Tipton gained notice in the prog-metal world some twenty years ago as the driving force behind the Bay Area quartet Zero Hour, a unit known for percussive guitar shredding, gut-wrenching and aggressive singing, and a fucking frightening rhythm section. And while Zero Hour churned out some of the angriest and finest prog-metal of that era, the most mesmerizing of their many focal points was often Troy‘s thick, trebly bass guitar, often pummeling away at some indeterminably amorphous meters in a manner that I, quite honestly, found profoundly unsettling. Look no further than “Demise and Vestige” from the 2001 album “The Towers of Avarice” if you need convincing.
Troy can’t play bass anymore. And that reality is more than a little profoundly unsettling for him. Thankfully, the Tipton twins seem incapable of creating music without each other. Their latest project, A Dying Planet, sees the boys back at with their trademark minimalism with brother Troy taking the mic in lieu of his beloved bass. And the result is very, very promising.
“Resist” sets an appropriate tone from the outset, greeting us with a haunting ambiance that soon gives way to a sludgy, djenty groove overlayed with texture and finesse that’s instantly recognizable as Jasun Tipton to anyone that’s given his work a listen or two; drummer Marco Bica and bassist Brian Hart admirably pay homage to the foundation Troy had lain, with Zero Hour drummer Mike Guy while maintaining an identity all their own. And when Troy breaks his silence, he leaves the listener wondering how the hell he could possibly be a newcomer to the mic; while his voice does hollow a bit at the high end, his timbre, delivery, and resonance carry the weight of someone who’s been doing this singing thing much longer than he has. I can’t say if he has a natural knack for vocal delivery, but his performance’s maturity is without question the result of his dedication to his new instrument. One simply does not sound this good without doing a ton of legwork.
The focus, however, is not on Troy‘s singing, but on the quality of the material. “Resist” seamlessly weaves in and out of mellow and djent territory, paying homage to Marillion during the solo while brother Jasun channels his inner Steve Rothery before bringing the 14-minute opener to a worthy conclusion. Would that all opening tracks were this solid.
“Facing the Incurable” continues on a mellower pace where we begin to suspect that Troy is using A Dying Planet to vent his frustrations over losing his ability to play his beloved instrument; the desperation in his voice highlights his protagonist’s anguish over his failing body while his soothing baritone uneasily laments his condition. I am not a fan of spoken parts in the music, but Troy gets away with it by not overdoing it. A quick flashback to the Zero Hour sound – replete with dissonant voicings and frenetic action from all three instrumentalists – concludes with more mellowness and Jasun‘s lyrical soloing, which would not have sounded out of place on “Clutching at Straws.” A Dying Planet delivers another winner with this title track.
The harrowing “Human Obsolescence” follows much in the same vein as its ancestor “Reflections” (also from “The Towers of Avarice”) before we’re treated to a guest appearance from original Zero Hour singer Erik Rosvold on the heavier “Poisoning the Well.” While the mostly acoustic “Missing” does suffer a bit from excessive falsetto, it is done completely appropriately and is made forgivable by the nod to Anathema during the solo. The album then wraps with the brief, discomforting instrumental “Separation Anxiety,” further stressing the anguish that consumes the protagonist. I daresay it’s an anxious conclusion to an album that addresses an issue often overlooked in the world of metal even with heroes like Jason Becker walking among it.
And just like that, the album is over. Roughly an hour of music packed into six ambitious songs that I can only hope indicate a bright future for A Dying Planet. Though Troy tends to rely a bit much on cliched images in his lyrics (deafening silence, anyone?), he deserves to be lauded for making his vocal debut as able as it is. I can’t wait to hear more from this auspicious upstart.
Released By: CynNormal Lab Recordings
Release Date: August 14th, 2018
- Troy Tipton / vocals
- Jasun Tipton / guitars, keys
- Marco Bica / drums
- Brian Hart / bass
“Facing The Incurable” Track-Listing:
- Facing the Incurable
- Human Obsolescence
- Poisoning the Well
- Separation Anxiety
The ambitious debut vocal performance of one of the genre's most menacing bass guitarists, A Dying Planet gives the Tipton's brothers' sound a contemporary spin while honoring both its own history and the Giants upon whose shoulders it stands.