Zephaniah – Stories From The Book Of Metal

This is yet another case of an album where the title tells the whole story.  It’s like a trailer in a movie theater that shows you all the best parts before you see the actual film.  I like it because it’s the ‘Snakes On A Plane’ of album titles.  There’s going to be stories.  Stories from the book of METAL.  Seems like it would be a very heavy book indeed.

Zephaniah is, in a nutshell, the American answer to Hammerfall.  Both bands play a similar style of power metal that’s rooted in the traditional heavy metal strains of ’70s artists, though Zephaniah appears to draw a bit of influence from flamboyantly overblown ’80s rock ala Queen.  Think of it as Hammerfall listened to through a Manowar filter; as hypermasculine as either of those two, but more readily American in style.  The lyrics are not quite as cringe-inducing as the Swedes we know and love and stay away from that band’s most horrific metaphors, although there’s still plenty of uses of the word ‘sword’ and enough songs about fighting for truth and justice (and love) and overcoming adversity to make any Dragonforce fan proud.  It’s very fun music.

One of the most striking features of this album really is just how professional it manages to be.  For a band’s very first output, this really sounds like it could have been released on any number of mid-level European power metal labels.  The production is full, clear, and heavy, with the only possible flaw coming in the form of a slightly thin guitar tone.  All members play very capably, and a special notice should be given to vocalist Logan Detwiler, whose purely clean singing is far in advance of nearly any other independent power metal artist out there, essentially devoid of the timidity that harms so many of such bands.

Most importantly, though, the music is catchy and memorable.  ‘Antietam’ is full of excellent, Iron Maiden-inspired riffing that sticks in your head long after the track is over, ‘Deep Breath’, the ballad of the album, is immense and not even remotely self-conscious, and ‘Fight For Love’ is the ‘Hearts On Fire’ of Zephaniah, with an almost painfully catchy chorus and great riffs.  The album sags just a little in the second half, but overall, the package is one of the best I’ve heard in modern power metal in a long while.  The music here is earnest as well as being very well written and performed, and as far as I can see it, Zephaniah really has no particularly glaring flaws in anything their doing.  That’s a pretty great accomplishment for a self-released debut album.

So if you like power metal, you should get this right about now.  As far as traditional PM goes, very little eclipses this in quality and consistency.  Grab a copy of this from the band and let it take a place snugly at the end of your CD collection; I can almost guarantee you won’t regret it.

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~ by noktorn on April 12, 2008.

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