Released: 2004, Lion Music
Vocalist P-O Saether has been writing music since 1979, being involved with at least a handful of bands in that time… now I’ve never heard any of these bands, this is just what I’ve read because quite frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the progressive scene. Not that it’s bad… but I get my fill from a lot of the more popular progressive bands and haven’t really found the need to dig deeper, not to imply that there aren’t better bands out there…
Zello are a somewhat progressive rock band that, until now, had no guitars and used violin as their primary instrument. That “until now” part is where this album comes in, after two studio albums Zello has decided to rerecord their first album, but with guitars filling in some of the sound. Now, I’m not exactly sure why the band chose to do this because it effectively took away what made the band unique in the first place. To get a good idea of exactly what this band sounds like, take a smidgen of 70 prog rock and give it a nice dose of 80’s arena rock. Of course, then add a lot of violin which, even with the added guitar, is the most dominant instrument.
Opening with the rocking “Fairy Queen” one gets an instant dose of violin. The violin plays out the main melody and theme of the song with guitars seemingly used to thicken out the sound. The song grabs the listener quickly with it’s upbeat violin play before settling into a soft groove but it’s when the song hits it’s open, catchy chorus that one really sits down to take notice. In the chorus I’m actually reminded of some of the “lighter” prog/power metal bands, Dream Theater maybe? or a more likely fit would be Sonata Arctica. There’s a distinct 80’s feel in the song “Hold On” though in the beginning that feel is obscured by heavy use of violin and a war-like marching rhythm. By the 28 second mark Saether’s vocals take hold of the upbeat rocker, now add that to the open verse, heavy use of keyboard, and more liberal use of guitar… The song is a winner.
“The Angels Have Fallen” is a fun, bouncing number. Most bands would have given a bit more attitude to the song, trying to make it sound a bit more aggressive… but Zello give the song a certain sense of fun, at least musically, with it’s almost happy sounding melodies. “Voyager” sees the band delve into a slower pace with a long violin build up before rhythmic, almost tribal sounding, drums open up the verse. Saether’s vocals slowly drifting overtop of the song, not forcing the notes but letting things move slowly like the mist over the water. One problem I have with the album that becomes apparent during the first listen is the overuse of tracks meant to segue, or build up to the next song. The main offender of this being “The Hummer” (which is meant as a build up for “Voyager”) which is basically birds chirping with spacey keyboard noises which isn’t even remotely interesting. Thankfully, most of the other tracks like this are shorter and contain more actual music…
Zello create a pleasant, but not all that enthralling listen. While I’ll throw this album on for some fun, or when I want something a little different I’m definitely not putting this album on and giving it my full, undivided attention.