Coming back from the dead after almost fifteen years between albums, American progressive metal band Zero Hour comes back into the fold with their newest record, “Agenda 21”. When it comes to writing this kind of music, it is no light task. It’s melancholic. Bad jokes aside, it makes perfect sense that guitarist Jasun Tipton and singer Erik Rosvold would recruit the bass monster that is Andreas Blomqvist (Seventh Wonder) and drum beast Roel Van Helden to become the percussive backbone of the musical megazord that is Zero Hour. “Agenda 21” is loaded with atmospheric groove, contains riffs go leor and faithfully lives up to the genre’s characteristics – there are plenty of long songs with a ton of parts, time signature changes and ridiculous displays of musicianship. Grab your metronome and proceed with caution.
Going straight for the juggular we are taken into a 14-minute epic called “Democide” which takes us from an atmospheric groove to downtown Riffopolis. The song starts with ambient clean guitars arpeggiating chord progressions that are supported by a high-hat driven groove with Blonqvist syncopating with Van Helden‘s kick drum. Remember that feeling, it is the last time you will have it for about another five minutes. From here we are on a white-knuckle ride through out a progressive metal riffmeister’s journey as a hopeless dystopian worldview is painted for us by Rosvold. The song goes back and forth between heavy riffing and clean parts before it closes out with clean guitar arpeggios outlining a chord progression and a mix of spoken word and singing.
“The digital drug is the lobotomy” is the main proclaimation by Rosvold in their second song “Technocracy,” which starts off with a frequency filtered melody played by Tipton before having the song open up and that melody turning into a soaring lead. From there Rosvold takes the lead on the song and brings us into the verse which has a rhythm that is somewhere between 1980’s Ozzy Osbourne and Dream Theater in that there is some straight forward driving chordal riffage followed into some ascending progressive movements into a subdivision jam back and forth between a 3 count and 5 count. The song then takes us down a progressive metal journey filled with more odd time signature changes and instrumental themes while Rosvold sings in disbelief of the state of technocracy.
Their next song “Stigmata” kicks off with an electronic groove before the band comes in to play their syncopated hits that further lead us into a prog metal adventure that is just over nine minutes. Lyrically, we are hearing a take on the worldview and self through a Christian perspective. The song ends in an ethereal manner, hearing clean atmospheric guitars until it finishes with just chordal synthesizer and vocal keyboard patches.
Up next we have “Memento Mori” which is the closest thing to a ballad we are going to get on this record. There are some very heavy lyrics in this one. It’s deep, and personal and if you can follow along you’ll hear a very powerful, sad story about dealing with death of a loved one. Musically speaking this song is breathe of air as it is guided by clean reverberated guitars through out the song while complementary bass melodies are imbedded in the groove laid out by Blomqvist.
Wasting no time at all, our next track “Agenda 21” brings us back to the metal side of things and comes in with some with some intense riffing by Tipton, backed up by some ferocious drumming by Van Helden. Rosvold sings about a dystopian, freedom-stricken world over some seriously shreddy riffing, ambient clean guitars, and more odd time grooves. One of the highlights for me was the bass line from the clean section around the four-minute mark out.
Zero Hour‘s last track on “Agenda 21” is called “Patient Zero” and it closes the album out in style as a ten-minute-long epic that starts out very calm and builds into a driving progressive metal journey. Through the perspective of a political prisoner, we are told about how life was, how life is, and ultimately how the prisoner finds resolve within. All of the band members are shining on this song with their respective instruments, and everyone of them has a moment that will impress you on this track. Just as the song builds up, the tension is released and the ending of the song and “Agenda 21” gently leaves us on the edge of an atmospheric groove.
Agenda 21” checks off a lot of boxes that any fan of the genre would want filled, and fans of the band will have this album on repeat, as it holds up well against their other albums. However, a common problem plaguing this genre as a whole is the lack of hooks. It is an extremely hard balance to achieve between chops and catchy segments, and throughout “Agenda 21” I found myself feeling the exact same issue is present here. Overall, after almost 15 years between releases, Zero Hour‘s return with “Agenda 21” is a solid effort back into the world of progressive metal.
Released By: Frontiers Music Srl
Release Date: May 13th 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal
- Erik Rosvold / Vocals
- Jasun Tipton / Guitars and Keyboards
- Andreas Blomqvist / Bass
- Roel van Helden / Drums
“Agenda 21” Track-list:
- Memento Mori
- Agenda 21
- Patient Zero
Lyrically “Agenda 21” is a provocative thoughtful album that will challenge your worldview if you give it a chance. Despite some vocal melodies sounding a bit lack luster, and guitar riffs a tad repetitious, there are plenty of examples of musicianship on an individual basis and as a band that will make you want to go back for a second and third listen