Saturday, April 18, 2009

Review: Prodigal Earth - Zenith II Zero (2009)

Prodigal Earth [ Website | MySpace ]
Zenith II Zero
Pitch Black Records

Cyprus doesn't immediately spring to mind when thinking of Heavy Metal hot spots, but there are a handful of notable outfits that call the Mediterranean island home. Prodigal Earth is making a strong case to be counted among them with their debut album Zenith II Zero, a hefty slab of traditionally inspired Power Metal overflowing with solid riffs and soaring vocals.

With the Cypriot metal scene being rather small, it comes as no surprise that three-fifths of Prodigal Earth are also members of other groups. Nicholas Leptos (vocals), Socrates Leptos (guitar), and Paris Lambrou (bass) all are, or have been, members of Arryan Path and Diphtheria. Both bands are similar in style to Prodigal Earth, with Arryan Path being the more epic of the two while Diphtheria works a fairly straightforward brand of Power Metal. Given such immediate influences, Prodigal Earth's sound emerges as a well-balanced blend of European style Power Metal and the more ballsy sound of bands like Kamelot and Jag Panzer.

Zenith II Zero gets started with the speedy "Disaster 121", one of the more frantically paced songs to be found on the album. Unfortunately, I thought this to be one of Prodigal Earth's weakest performances in that the choruses seemed just a tad rushed and the pacing came off as clumsy. The band gets it together on subsequent tracks, however, with "Lonely Gods" displaying their more progressive tendencies. A rallying bass line starts off the track, leading in to some Middle Eastern themed riffs and eventually a nice extended solo. "Once Upon A Crime" is the best example of Euro Power Metal to be found on the disc, its speedy riffs intermingling with with undulating keyboard runs courtesy of Japon. My favorite song, due in no small part to the wicked dual-guitar riffs dripping with '80s distortion, is "Crossroads". The chord progressions are simple, but gritty and catchy as hell. While every track sports an admirable amount of soloing, the wild six-string ride on "Crossroads" is simply snazzy. The following two songs follow in an Iron Maiden-inspired traditional metal vein, slaying with precise twin-guitar riffs as well as driving beats from skinsman Nicholas Philippou.

The album begins to take a turn on "The End (Ashes Of Desire Pt. 1)". The song is a power ballad very reminiscent of Manowar's style, with rousing gang choruses and wailing guitar leads. Frontman Leptos had, until this point, delivered an absolutely flawless performance. The man has one serious set of pipes, hitting the falsettos with the best of them, but on this ballad he sounds very uncomfortable and somewhat forced. His performance isn't bad, just awkward compared to the heights reached on previous tracks. Zenith II Zero closes with the string and woodwind enhanced ballad "Pro Defunctis", a notable track due to its moving orchestration and Leptos' heartfelt vocals. As a bonus, the album contains an alternate version of this track featuring Leptos in a duet with Marilena Solomou. While both versions are solid, I definitely prefer hearing some female vocals thrown into the mix.

Fans of Power Metal that contains more power than pomp will no doubt find Zenith II Zero an album most worthy of adding to their collection. Prodigal Earth has shown that they have the chops to make a name for themselves, and I am certainly looking forward to the band's future releases.

Track Listing
1Disaster 1214:53
2Broken World4:05
3Lonely Gods4:06
4Once Upon A Crime5:22
6God's Children4:43
7The Young Ones3:14
8Will To Live7:01
9The End (Ashes of Desire Pt. 1)6:29
10Pro Defunctis4:17
11Pro Defunctis [alternate version]4:16
Total Runtime53:40

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