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Recognize the name ZP Theart? You should if you are a fan of power metal. He is the former singer of Dragonforce. You know, the band that is famous for having a s**t hard song on Guitar Hero and making music that is over the top (especially the guitar solos). Even though his previous band was very uneven in its delivering, I really enjoyed his singing voice. It is powerful and fits perfectly in the power metal genre. But now has ZP moved on and formed the band I Am I. So is it a Dragonforce Jr? No. It is still power metal but gone are the crazyness and in comes a more well constructed and a more solid form of power metal. Something which should count as an advantage for not only ZP but also the band as a whole.
Together with ZP we also got Neil Salmon on bass, Paul Clark Jr on the drums and Jacob Ziemba guitar. A pretty unknown group of soldiers that supports the former Dragonforce singer. Fortunately, the lads are doing a solid job on their positions. It is not overwhelmingly awesome but the guys are doing what they are suposed to do which is good enough. How about ZP then? Well, he does not put in as much effort as in DF but it is not because he has lost power. No, it is because he does not need to go 100% to get the most out of the songs on "Event Horizon". You wont hear ZP soar over the tracks like some huge airplane. Instead, you will notice that ZP is more earthbound than he has ever been. Which is not surprising since there are few parts on this album that acquires a soaring voice.
The music overall on "Event Horizon" is on the edge between mediocre and good. It is nothing really shocking on this album. Nothing that will make you say "Hey, I have never heard this before". But there are some great songs on this album. "Wasted Wonders" has a chorus that is catchy and actually makes me shiver (also, love the guitar and drums on this one). Other good songs that stands out are "Cross The Line", "Dust 2 Dust" and "Kiss of Judas". Most of the songs on "Event Horizon" are very modern and quite enjoyable. There are not so many songs that I can complain about. But if I had to chose one it would have to be the boring and unimpressing ballad "King In Ruins". I just can not get any feeling from this song.
I got to say that I Am I has surprised me. I was not expecting this clean and modern power metal from ZP & Co. "Event Horizon" is not an album that makes a straight impact on you. Instead, it grows on you. Most of these songs are good and are great examples on how good modern power metal should sound like. I would not say that I Am I is complete yet but I think the band has a bright future ahead of them.
Songs worthy of recognition: Wasted Wonders, Silent Genocide, Dust 2 Dust
Rating: 7/10 Kings in ruins
I will admit that I had some hovering reservations about I Am I before listening to them, without really having any fair reason to. Getting past the awkward name, I think I had forgotten how much I actually enjoyed DragonForce once upon a time and probably allowed my expectations for ousted singer ZP Theart’s musical re-launch to be coloured thus.
His old band felt the bite of the law of diminishing returns faster than those damnable Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, but I still have a lot of affection for the CDs DragonForce released around the time I got into them, particularly the ‘Valley of the damned’ debut. A significant chunk of the charm on that CD, past the ludicrous speed and enthusiasm, was Theart’s warm vocals – he isn’t possessed of the broadest of ranges, but with his solid upper-register soar and emotional tone, he always had more to offer after leaving his past venture.
With his new cohorts – Polish guitarist Jacob Ziemba seemingly the other main man - I Am I beat a totally different path from the singer’s previous outfit. Not full speed ahead or featuring solo sections that double the length of the songs, they actually fall under that unusual little progressive/power/AOR bracket that became a bit of a mini-trend a couple of years ago and would be right at home on AFM or Frontiers.
Bands in that style took and still take a critical beating, but while ‘Event horizon’ proves more fruitful than the short-lived Ride the Sky or the swerve Power Quest took on ‘Master of illusion’ for example, it nonetheless treads the same boards and goes for a similar juxtaposing mix of juddering, proggy verses and big sugary choruses wrapped up in neat 4-5 minute packages.
Sometimes the stop-start riffing leaves the songs feeling somewhat bitty – trying to take elements of a progressive metal song but applying them to a more traditionally arranged framework can leave something that feels a little abortive – but this is a niggle that comes and goes and more often the songs flow freely and remain of a strong quality.
Admittedly they are mostly very chorus-centric and indeed fairly commercial, Theart seemingly quite content firmly in centre stage rather than waging a battle with 2 showy guitarists for room to express himself, but this proves not to be to the detriment of the CD.
Songs like “Cross the line” and “In the air tonight” are catchy melodic gems, while “Kiss of Judas” is the one to more fully embrace the progressive metal affectations displayed elsewhere, shifting fluidly through a few different passages with departed drummer Paul Clark Jr. getting to strut his stuff a little on the more jagged rhythmic parts.
Ziemba is a relatively versatile player, and his solos and lead parts shift and weave in not entirely predictable ways, adding extra little bits of juice to the songs where something more standard would have sufficed, which should hopefully keep the songs fresh on repeated listens.
If there is a complaint to be made it is that the production is a little too modern, for my tastes at least. Something similar to Helloween’s more recent approach to recording (before the ‘7 sinners’ chunkathon, anyway), it on occasion feels like the slightly muddy rhythm tone is strangling the songs somewhat. A smoother and more traditional recording style may have bumped the final product up a notch, but even allowing for this, ‘Event horizon’ is a rather fine debut from a band both living up to the international pedigree of one member and making a name for the lesser-knowns in the ranks at the same time.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)