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Zero Hour - Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond CD (album) cover

SPECS OF PICTURES BURNT BEYOND

Zero Hour

Progressive Metal


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andrejmy@zozn
4 stars Oh finally some great and true progressive metal ... I´m really tired from many releases which are rated as a progressive metal but in a fact they have nothing to do with such a great style as a progressive metal is... Zero Hour has made a big step forward from their latest album, I can´t say that the last album was bad but I think was far from the perfect record... "Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond" is a very professional technical and heavy progressive metal in a typical american vein... it sounds great, the production is clean very fresh and modern and the whole music is from the beggining very dramatic. I like this american progressive metal and I´m happy that Zero Hour belongs to the top of this perfect music style...

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#95233)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first album I got from this band, and I must say, it's a good one. The music is a combination of Dream Theater and Fates Warning with their own twist. The voice comes close to an early Geoff Tate (Queensryche). Stable with a high pitch. If you are a fan off the three named bands, you can't go wrong....buy this one!!

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Send comments to Hét LICHAAM (BETA) | Report this review (#104328)
Posted Sunday, December 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars (First of all, I am NOT plagerizing. This review was originally written for metal- archives.com) Now that I got that off my chests... on to the review.

Ahem...

Zero Hour has quickly become one of my favorite prog bands of the past several years. The level of musicianship is exemplary. The production pervades a massive, unbreakable wall of sound, and Chris Salina's near-faultless vocal presence all contributes in making Zero Hour a band of considerable quality. Having been satisfied by their subsequent release, "Towers of Avarice" I simply could not wait what the band do next. After a few botched albums, Zero Hour strikes back with their latest release honing their sound to a more technical and aggressive direction.

The closest reference point might be the "TOA"-era as the band completely dropped out the keyboards that plagued their previous release. Now that Zero Hour has finally returned back to their roots, not to mention recruiting what might be their best vocalist at this point, Zero Hour has put out their most consistent and stylish release to date. Many of fans might be asking "Well, is it better than TOA?" My answer: A resounding thumbs up! This is the album that TOA fans have all been anxiously waiting for. The real Zero Hour has returned, and boy oh boy, they never sounded better. For people who enjoyed TOA, it's practically useless for me to keep explaining but for beginners I would really urge that they would keep on reading. First and foremost, this is NOT for impatient listeners. Amidst all the technicality and mind-boggling time changes, the album, for most of the time, can be very repetitious and rarely alternates between variations. I remember once I was introduced by this band from one of the BNR pages, and upon initial listens I was less than satisfied. I can't stress this enough, but patience is one of the most important things to fully appreciate on what has been done here. This album was never meant to be rushed, and only the brashest person would only know what he/she's been missing. Be sure to take your time with this band.

Most of you might know that Zero Hour's characteristic sound is mostly utilized by the Tipton brother's unprecedented rhythm syncopation as well as Mike Guy's improvisational drum patterns. All of this is melded together with painstaking precision. Also, who wouldn't mention a perfect vocalist required to make Zero Hour and even more prodigious band. After disbanding Power of Omens, Chris Salinas was recruited to join Zero Hour in their latest work. I'm right up there with the band's decision as Salinas is one of the most versatile and distinctive vocalist out there. Obviously coming out of the Geoff Tate school of thought, Salinas doesn't forget to be emotive, gripping and aggressive, clearly surpassing any of the vocalist that came before him. The drum work is particularly striking here. Filled with numerous drum arrangements and compositions, Mike Guy showcases one of the most bewildering and impressive performances of his career. Not only does it constantly keeping listeners on their toes but it also strengthens the overall music as a unifying whole, thus rendering the album as an organic, pulsating piece of work. Considering the upfront sound quality, the production is light years beyond that of "Towers". Dino Alden is one gifted producer. Merging forceful, thick guitars and pounding drum beats it's the sonic equivalent of getting ran over by steamroller. Everything just permeates a life-like, pulverizing sound that few albums could ever match. Significantly louder than any of their previous materials, this is hands down Zero Hour's darkest and heaviest album to date.

Now for some highlights. The first two tracks represent what Zero Hour is all about. Falcon's Cry underscores some merciless riffage as well as some oscillating time changes to keep things interesting and fun. The title track might just be Zero Hour's heaviest piece, EVER. Again, the drums and guitars work immensely well together to form huge aural barrier of sound, and at the same time, still maintains to be focused and technical. Also, the frequent ballads and soft moments help to create a unique, futuristic atmosphere for this album in which I find this to be very captivating. In the end, Zero Hour remains one of the my favorite prog bands ever. For those who are willing to sacrifice their time, you'd be surprised on how much you'll be rewarded with. An individualistic, challenging band, Zero Hour's latest release and "Towers" are nothing short of sublime. Recommended to anyone interested into the more technical nature of progressive metal. (By the way, nice album cover. Who's that?! Max Payne? Lol.)

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Send comments to Salvation Now (BETA) | Report this review (#108023)
Posted Friday, January 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Zeros Hour's latest album 'Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond' is, along with Mastodon's Blood Mountain, the best album of 2006. This album was my introduction to Zero Hour. It is great to hear technical and complex music such as this, which follows in the tradition of Watchtower and Psychotic Waltz, because we really don't here a lot of it.

This album contains seven songs, four of which are epic, technically blistering tracks. All show the mind blowing musicianship of Zero hour. But also these songs are beautifully melodic, they are able to successfully do both which is remarkable. 'Face the Fear' is a monstrous opener and really showcases what this band is about. 'The Falcons Cry' is my favourite song off the album. This song more than any other showcases the bands ability to be ultra complex and majestically beautiful at the same time. Absolutely the song of 2006. Though very much different in sound, it is very much comparable to what Psychotic Waltz and John Arch era Fates Warning were able to do.

The title track 'Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond' is a song which just pounds you into submission. It's so damn heavy, yet it is such a haunting song thanks to a stunning vocal; performance by Chris Salinas. Salinas is in top form throughout this album, he takes the music of Zero Hour to a completely different level. 'Evidence of the Unseen' is the song which closes the album, leaving the listener on absolute high. Some amazing brutal riffing on that one.

The album also contains two short instrumentals. First is the acoustic based 'Embrace', very beautiful, and a nice break from the technical insanity. Then there is 'Zero Hour' which shows the band at its more experimental, there are even some nice jazzy bits in there. It is one which is very reminiscent of Watchtower. Finally there is the ballad 'I Am Here'. It is a stunning ballad and really shows the diversity this band is capable of. It's powerful and emotional.

I cannot praise this album enough. It is incredible. How is that I have ignored this band for so long? Zero Hour prove with this album they are one of the leading prog metal acts. The fact they are not regarded as such is an absolute disgrace. All prog metal fans do yourself a favour and get this album.

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Send comments to Hrvat (BETA) | Report this review (#108099)
Posted Saturday, January 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This has my vote for one of the best releases of 2006. Although there is a lot of heavy, complex and technical instrumentation here there is also lots of variety including tranquil passages and even a ballad ! The drummer i'm sure is out of his mind ! I was going to say his drum patterns are all over the place, but then I thought, what drum patterns? The lead and bass guitar players are twins, the Tipton brothers. And the singer who previously sang for the POWER OF OMENS is as diverse a singer as I have heard. One moment sounding like Geoff Tate and then hitting the high notes to a low sounding gothic voice. And then there are the lyrics that I don't usually pay a lot of attention to but I was blown away by the amazing words of some of these songs. And combining the emotional and meaningful lyrics with the powerful, complex music was truly humbling for me. As someone has said before "I am not worthy". Of note, there are no keys on this record which suits me fine. And in the liner notes they thank the lead guitarist for SUN CAGED, and also Meg (Prog-Maiden) which I thought was funny.They also drop a couple of F-bombs in thanking other people and end it all by thanking GOD for all his blessings. I love these guys.

"Face The Fear" opens with heavy guitar and odd metered drumming as the vocals slowly rise out of this soundscape from hell. It becomes tranquil 2 minutes in and he sounds like Tate, his vocals are incredible. Full speed ahead 5 minutes in with guitars blazing and drums pounding. Great tune ! "The Falcon's Cry" is such a special song and my favourite on the record.The lyrics are beyond words. It opens hard, heavy and complex all at the same time.The vocals range from gothic to rough to screaming.The song itself also changes from hard to light, fast to slow. Amazing.

"Embrace" is an instrumental with a vocal melody in the background.The guitar playing on this one is pretty cool. "Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond" opens with heavy, pounding drums as the guitar grinds it out and vocals scream.The song gets pastoral after 5 minutes with reserved vocals that are quickly blown away by some great solos from Jasun. "Zero Hour" is another instrumental of intricate guitar and drums throughout. "I Am Here" is a mellow song with gentle guitar and fragile vocals. Nice. "Evidence Of The Unseen" opens with heavy drums and vocals as the guitar slices in and out of the melody, this is contrasted to the softening guitars, drums and vocals 2 minutes in. Again the lyrics are incredible ! The song ends with the words "You are the evidence of the unseen".

I am definitely going to check out their album "The Towers Of Avarice" and the POWER OF OMENS records as well.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#112532)
Posted Sunday, February 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I recently bought a copy of this Zero Hour's latest, SPECS OF PICTURES BURNT BEYOND, and I still can't explain why I did it. As you know, my review of one of their earliest albums, METAMORPHOSIS, wasn't really a flattering one, and I gave the album just one star for what I deemed as the absolute lack of musical coherence I had ever found in a record up to that date. Things haven't really changed that much since that day. It's not that now I love that album, I still find it segmented and lacking direction, and I still find the singer that performed there annoying. But, I don't know why, somehow I found a copy of this latest release in a record store, and I just couldn't stop the impulse to buy it, to give ZH a second chance, so to speak. My relation with Fates Warning had, I think, much to do with the decision: that was a band I used to dislike, with a singer I used to despise, both of which now I like and a lot; FW's music is a clear influence in Zero Hour's sound; so, it was only logical that I though that maybe, maybe things would also change with regards to this San Francisco outfit. That's my only possible explanation as to my purchase, and now that I've actually listened to the CD more than a couple of times, I think it would be fair of me to give my opinion on a band I once categorized as music for "octopus lovers".

I still can't say that I LOVE this band, but at least now I can listen to the album without ever wondering what the hell am I doing listening or it or what the heck were these guys in ZH thinking when they recorded it. I can distinguish some structures here, I can hear some bits that resemble a melody there, I can finally understand that this music has a purpose. In SOPBB (the title is too long to write), Zero Hour has created a collection of very heavy, very difficult, very complex technical progressive metal. Unlike the only album that I had heard of them until this one, here we have coherent songs. Another element that didn't exist in METAMORPHOSIS that I can see now is, as I already said, melody, although it still isn't this band's specialty (nor, I guess, are they really interested on it, as this is not music meant to be melodic.) The music still sounds like a very technical version of Fates Warning with some elements by other bands, but that's the main influence without any doubt. Zero Hour is a progressive-metal band that listened to Cynic and Fates Warning much more so than they did Dream Theater or Symphony X, and it clearly shows. Their music isn't as technical as Spiral Architect, but it's much more complex (in the technical sense) than most average metal bands. In the final track of the album we can even hear some Meshuggah-like riffs, a detail that can surely tell you how heavy and aggressive ZH's music has turned out to be.

I have to mention the change in vocals, as it's one of the key reasons for the improvement that I've detected in this band. Chris Salinas is really a fantastic singer, much in the vein of Ray Alder but even more so in the style of Queensryche's Geoff Tate. Salinas is a versatile singer, going from the metal, screaming approach to the more calmed, restrained mood in a matter of seconds, and he's also capable of some drama, some theatricality, something that's very hard to find in Fates-Warning- influenced singers.

Face the Fear (8/10) The very rhythmical start a la Cynic (and also a la Primus, to be honest) leads to a zigzagging riff that goes upwards, goes down and immediately climbs again. A quiet section that sounds a lot like Fates Warning interrupts the insanity attack. It's worth mentioning the good work by the bass player, one of the highlights in an already very technical band. Madness strikes again, Salinas sounds more Tate-like than ever, the riff sounds like it came from a sick mind, from a complete paranoid person. The song is long but goes by very quickly. The quiet section returns, and the song nears its end. The guitar riff grows more relentless, it seems it will never stop. One of the best songs ever by Zero Hour (which, coming from me, it's not saying much, as I've only heard one other album besides this one).

The Falcon's Cry (8.5/10) The heaviness is evident, imposing. I don't like the singing that much when Salinas almost shrieks trying to reach impossible notes. Another insanity-driven riff of pure rhythmical interest, hardly any melodic one. This album is really a chant for crazy, mentally-derailed people, as the riffs are this close to be perfect portraits of a nervous and mental breakdown. And, as with every insane person, anger is followed by quiet and even beauty. A peaceful part sung by Salinas who sounds 95% like Geoff Tate, only much more schizophrenic. Interesting. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I'm hearing good music! This section is truly the best part of the album, as is this song, the best I've ever heard from this San Francisco group. Incredible: 8 minutes that go by like 4, unlike in METAMORPHOSIS where the exact opposite was the truth.

Embrace (8/10) The "Believe It or Not" reality we're living continues, as we face an instrumental of decent melodic value! This is only guitars and more guitars, in an interesting texturing exercise, with Salinas harmonizing in the rear background. Short but good.

Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond (6.5/10) It was too good to be true. The violence starts again with a riff that crushes like heavy machinery. Sadly, the singing ruins the main verse. Yes, the same singing I was applauding moments ago it's the cause for problems here. I just can't take those ultra-high shrieks a la Judas Priest or King Diamond. The music is too neurotic, too epileptic to be liked by me. In this song, the death of melody has been produced again. I can't lie and say this guys can't play, but this track, though far from atrocious (an adjective I recurrently used when reviewing their third album), is just too chaotic for me.

Zero Hour (7.5/10) The riff is interesting but it seems like we've heard it before. Guitar and bass playing are of the highest quality, and the drummer is quite a virtuoso, too. A rather noisy track that is short and concise, and just because of that, it works. Yes, there's no melody in here but when melody-less, rhythm-oriented, odd-time-signature written pieces last only 2 minutes, I can very easily digest them, and I even welcome them!

I Am Here (7.5/10) Clean-guitar arpeggios and melodic singing? We're in Ripley's land again. A good moment of peace and relaxation before the carnage that is about to come. Good, if not brilliant, little acoustic song. Great singing by Salinas.

Evidence of the Unseen (6.5/10) This starts so quietly, just a murmur. We know only cannibalism can lie behind such noise. The riff is another hymn to insanity, straight from the sanitarium, complete with dissonances and odd-time signatures that would make Meshuggah's members quite proud. The riff is just too savage, too terrorizing. Melody has died. But then a quiet, almost atmospheric (yes, I said that) section gives us a second to catch our breath. It doesn't last long and the guitar-engine is at it again. Then another quiet section. The song continues like that all the way to the end. It's not a bad track but it's just too much of a massacre for my taste.

As a final comment, let me say that I'd given this album 4 stars were it not for the two ultra-violent tracks that I've rated with 6.5/10. I have to give credit where credit is due: Zero Hour is a good band that could be even better, for my tastes, if they added a little more melody to their music. But for fans of this kind of metal, I'm telling you, the album will probably be something of a masterpiece for you.

Not recommend for: fans of melodic metal; people that dislike metal in general. Most of all, people that NEED melody in their music.

Recommended for: technical-progressive metal fans; fans of Zero Hour; fans of Cynic, Meshuggah, Spiral Architect, among others.Oh, yes, and Geoff Tate's fans.

.Chris Salinas is the best Geoff Tate I've ever heard.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#120475)
Posted Tuesday, May 01, 2007 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars This is my third review on Zero Hour. I find this album good but, i don't think this is their best , i'm choosing The Towers of Avarice to be the best Zero Hour album, and the most complete and inovative of their works so far. The new voice Chris Salinas (third), is not bad but has not the power and technique like Eric Rosvold (the best), sometimes is like Geoff Tate. I'm enjoying very much this band, so i rate this album 3 stars. Maybe next time will be a better one, that doesn't mean this one is weak, but has not the same value like Towers and Fragile Mind. Recommended to anyone interested into the more technical nature of progressive metal, some similar bands Sieges Even, Spiral Architect, and even Fates Warning. 3 stars

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#120482)
Posted Wednesday, May 02, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond is the fourth full-length studio album by American progressive metal act Zero Hour. The album was released in 2006 through Sensory Records. For the second album in a row the band has changed lead vocalist as Fred Marshall who sang on A Fragile Mind (2005) has been replaced with ex-Power of Omens vocalist Chris Salinas. As I was not very happy about Fred Marshall´s voice and vocal style on A Fragile Mind I was really excited about the prospect of a new lead singer in Zero Hour. As it turns out my expectations that a new vocalist would bring back some of the magic from the Erik Rosvold ( the first lead vocalist in Zero Hour) days, are fully met.

The music is technical progressive metal. Zero Hour is one of the few bands in the genre who has a very unique and easily recognizable style IMO. Lots of fast chromatic runs in unusual time signatures but with memorable and melodic vocal lines to bring some dynamic and accessibility into an otherwise very dark, heavy and challenging soundscape. New lead vocalist Chris Salinas is a great asset to the band´s sound IMO. His voice is very similar to the voice of Ray Alder ( Fates Warning, Engine, Redemption) which might be a problem for some but isn´t for me. The man can´t help being born with a voice that happens to be very similar to the voice of someone else ( I wish I was born with a voice like that) and his performance on this album is impeccable. A very skilled vocalist.

There are seven tracks on the album. All excellent technical progressive metal songs ( well there´s one ballad too). Songs like Face the Fear ( OK I have to admit that when Chris Salinas starts singing in this song it does sound just a bit too much like Fates Warning), The Falcon´s Cry and Evidence of the Unseen are prime examples of why Zero Hour is one of the most succesful bands in the genre.

The musicianship is excellent. Lots of challenging playing and a unique approach to writing music.

The production is excellent too. very professional and well sounding.

Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond is a great return to form for Zero Hour and while the album doesn´t quite reach the heights of my favorite by the band The Towers of Avarice (2001), I still find it to be an excellent technical progressive metal album fully deserving a 4 star rating.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#226957)
Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Zero Hour is a progressive metal band formed by twin brothers Jasun and Troy Tipton in California back in 1993. I came across the band after reading about the release of their forth (or third) album Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond and being overwhelmed by all the positive reviews that the album had received from both critics and fans. I decided to dive into this album head first, assuming that this would be something along the lines of Dream Theater and Riverside, two bands I was listening a lot to back then. Well, it's been almost five years since I've heard this album and that's a pretty hefty timespan for an album to sit on a shelf and collect dust. So what's my reasoning behind completely abandoning this release after only a few spins back in the day?

Although I still haven't experienced any of Zero Hour's previous records, I guess that the addition of Chris Salinas was a pretty excellent one since he brings quite a lot of character to this otherwise pretty generic progressive metal release. My main problem here is the songwriting which just sounds too much like a product of the early '90s progressive metal school of Fates Warning or Queensrÿche, rather than that of 2006! I mean, it's one thing to release an album like this in 1996, just when the early progressive scene was beginning to evolve, and a completely different one releasing it in 2006! I've never been a huge fan of regressive metal (aka retro prog metal), especially when it references the not so glamorous beginnings of progressive metal genre. The style and melodies are very generic and it almost feels like the band members are painting their music collage by numbers, instead of working out how they can enhance their work and bring something new and original to their established sound. There's honestly not a single standout moment all throughout these seven compositions which is probably why I never cared to give it another spin after hearing it a few times back in 2006/2007.

I'm sure that fans of the early progressive metal will find something to enjoy on Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond, since Zero Hour stays very true to that concept, with the exception of the sound enhancement of the 2006 sound mixing which sounds miles beyond anything that was released by metal bands in the late '80s/early '90s. Personally, I feel that the terrible sound of the past recordings have not been as much of an issue for me as long as long as the recording has a personality of it's own and some metal riffs to back it up! This is the main my reasoning behind such a poor rating that's being awarded here.

**** star songs: Face The Fear (9:00) Specs Of Pictures Burnt Beyond (7:36)

*** star songs: The Falcon's Cry (8:01) Embrace (2:25) Zero Hour (2:28) I Am Here (4:59) Evidence Of The Unseen (8:44)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#588323)
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first album I have heard from Zero Hour. Although I liked it quite a bit, I don't really feel that I have all that much to say about it. Since I started writing this review though, I'll try to put my thoughts into words anyway. ;)

First off, it's a very good album of melodic progressive metal. The biggest influence does seem rather obvious though.

If you liked Queenryche, especially their album Promised Land, there's a reasonably good chance you will like this album. The very first thing I think a lot of people will notice is that vocalist Chris Salinas' vocals are pretty much a dead ringer for Geoff Tate. The playing and song writing are also similar to Queensryche's Promised Land era.

However, as I said, this is a very good album. A majority of the tracks are between 7-9 minutes in length which feels like just the right length to develop the ideas within the songs without risking overstaying their welcome.

"I Am Here", the shortest track with vocals, is one of my favourites off of this album. It's the most melodic track on the album, but also managers to be one of the most emotional.

Highlights: "Face the Fear". "The Falcon's Cry", "Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond", "I Am Here"

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Send comments to FunkyM (BETA) | Report this review (#803469)
Posted Sunday, August 12, 2012 | Review Permalink

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