If you have yet to hear the commanding new release from Zero Hour, Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond, you are missing out on one of 2006's most exciting progressive metal albums. It's a CD filled with complexity, precision instrumentation, and no shortage of atmospheric drama, all channelled into one seamless and focused direction. With new singer Chris Salinas on board, the band now have their definitive line-up and are ready to take their place at the top of the prog-metal genre. Guitarist Jasun Tipton recently caught up with Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz to discuss the new album and other news from the Zero Hour camp.
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Hello Jasun. Congratulations on your new album Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond. It is so far my favourite disc of 2006.
Jasun: Thanks so much Murat and I'm very pleased to hear you're enjoying the new CD. I have to say Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond is one of my favorites releases by the band along with The Towers Of Avarice.
SoT: Unlike A Fragile Mind, you guys were pretty quick to put this album together. First, could you talk about how you met your new singer Chris Salinas? What exactly led to Fred Marshall's departure?
Jasun: Troy, Mike and I met Chris back in 2001 at the ProgPower I USA event in Chicago. Power Of Omens was performing and when he performed lived he sounded amazing.I chatted with him for 45 minutes and knew this kat was the real deal. Troy, Mikey and I said if there was ever a guy to replace Erik it would be Chris. As for Fred I knew right away after tracking his vocals he wasn't the future for Zero Hour. For one he was unpleasant to work with in the studio. Second his voice is limited to the dynamics of the music we were writing for the future.
SoT: Were you guys familiar with Chris' previous band Power of Omens before that performance?
Jasun: Yes we were fans of Eye of the Oracle. Great bunch of guys in Power of Omens.
SoT: Chris has certainly brought in a very original vibe to the sound of Zero Hour. How do you think he differs from Erik Rosvold and Fred Marshall?
Jasun: Chris's voice you can really take to the limits because of his range. With Zero Hour's material you have music that doesnt have any boundaries and with a singer like Chris you have a voice without any boundaries.
SoT: The ballad "I Am Here" finds your singer sounding exactly like Geoff Tate. I know Chris is a great fan, but how come this is the only song where he doesn't want to refrain from sounding like him?
Jasun: I think the music with all its technical formats and the dynamics we provide makes Chris have to think outside of the box. Its not the easiest material to sing over but there are melodies there to have the vocals flow easily and melodically over the music. So I guess in the end, his voice has to adjust to what the music is providing which makes it more original.
SoT: There are less keys on Specs compared to A Fragile Mind. Was going into a heavier direction a conscious effort or did it just turn out that way during the writing process?
Jasun: We have been writing for this album for quite a while and really in the end all you have is Troy, Mikey and I jamming material that was coming together in the studio. So there wasnt an outlook for keyboards for this particular disc and probably not for the next disc either. I think at the moment we're just enjoying going into the studio and jamming out parts we figure out in the studio to make it as organic as possible.
SoT: Also I detect an undeniable similarity to The Towers of Avarice as far as some of the riffery is concerned. Your work on the title song seems to make a nod to Towers, with cool staccato riffs in the vein of Meshuggah...
Jasun: Yeah thats pretty much our signature sound and think youll hear that on every album because its something that really contrast well over the clean passages and technical patterns we do. Staccato riffs rule!
SoT: You guys have been pretty active as of late, playing lots of shows. How was
the Prog Power experience?
Jasun: Progpower is always an amazing experience. The festival is put together so well for all the bands and fan have the best times at this event. I think everyone should experience Progpower USA because there is no other festival like it.
SoT: You've also just finished an East Coast tour. How did that one go?
Jasun: It was great to finally get out to Texas and the East Coast and we had some great shows and the fans are amazing. We did dates in Houston Texas, NJ, NY, VA, MA, MD. We are planning to go back to the East Coast in the summer for a festival that we were asked to be a part of and at some point we will get back out to Texas as well.
SoT: Any chance for a European tour? If so, what bands would you like to play with?
Jasun: We just confirmed April 7th 2007 we'll be coming back to Holland to play the amazing Headway festival. We're very excited about this because Holland has been amazing to us and this festival is ran so well. This year is going to be an awesome lineup and we will be doing additional shows with Into Eternity and To-Mera. We should have more updates soon in regards to that tour and please check our myspace page www.myspace.com/zerohourband and www.zerohourweb.com
SoT: What have some of your favourite prog releases been of the year so far?
Jasun: Sikth and Tool. Sikth came out with an amazing disc that has a lot of prog elements in it. The new Tool, well its Tool and its awesome.
SoT: I'd like to ask you about a few prog bands. It'd be cool if you could comment on them:
Dream Theater - Still one of the best progressive metal bands out there who really put the genre on the map. These guys are fantasic musicians.
Pain of Salvation - Many people love this band and I will have to give them another listen at some other time. I have listened to them and I think I need to get a few more listens before I could really give it a comment.
Fates Warning - Perfect Symmetry really made me a fan of Fates Warning. I remember listening to that CD all the time and caught them live on that tour. Great band.
Tool - No one else sounds like this band, truly a definitive sound and thats why Tool is so successful. I believe everything they put out and this band is awesome.
Queensryche - One of the best. My personal favorite is Rage for Order and their still going strong.
Redemption - Nick is a cool kat and we've been trying for who knows how long to put some dates together. It would be an awesome package Zero Hour and Redemption.
Opeth - Another act that has their own sound. I'm a big fan of Black Water Park and the new one speaks as well.
Radiohead - There are two songs I really really enjoy by this band but need to listen to more before I could say I'm a fan. I have a lot of respect for Radiohead because they do have their own sound.
Porcupine Tree - Amazing band. I was just listening to Light Bulb Sun last night. Steven Wilson has an amazing ear to blend melodies over each other.
SoT: Thanks for your time Jasun!
Jasun: No, thank you Murat for always helping the genre. SoT rules!
Photos courtesy of Christina Grimaldi
(Click here to read our reviews of Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond)