Zen - Gaze into the light 5/5
1. The new sunrise
2. Gaze into the light
3. Water can cover the next
5. 137.999 - Welcome to Zuffenhousen
6. Tales from the deep
7. Invisible horizon
What's this? I'm reviewing a progressive metal CD? Yep, that's right. But Zen's 'Gaze into the light' is not just any progressive metal CD, it happens to be one of the best I've heard from the genre. Now keep in mind, I only have a handful of progressive metal bands and those who are well into the genre may have different thoughts on the CD than me, but this is definitely one of the better pure progressive metal CDs that's ever stepped in front of me as I've headed down the path of power metal. Unfortunately, 'Gaze into the light' is Zen's one and only CD (from 1997), and it saddens me that they haven't released anything since then. The CD was recommended to me and after giving up on searching for samples I bought it blindly, trusting my recommendation source.
Zen is probably most comparable to the popular and long-running Dream Theater, but they're from Italy, so there's a slight influence from fellow Italians like Heraldry, Concept, Helried and Wonderland. There's also a hint of the Brazilian style though, as Angra, Aquaria, Shaaman and Wizards are brought to mind many times throughout the CD. Even though the bands I've listed are well embedded in the power metal genre, Zen really does share many musical similarities with them and I believe this was the reason the CD was recommended to me. Vocally, Andrea Polidoro fits somewhere in the middle of these mentioned bands as well. In fact, he's easily one of the best vocalists out there, sounding like a perfect blend of James Labrie (Dream Theater), Geoff Tate (Queensryche), Andre Fischer (Ivory Tower) and Andre Matos (ex-Viper/Angra/Shaman). Simply a spectacular vocalist who is amazing to listen to!
The music as a whole, wow! Definitely pure progressive metal (as mentioned), but taking the influences from the many aforementioned bands and providing thoroughly enjoyable songs that are nothing short of magical. There are a lot of changes in tempo (very little all-out speed though), and I get caught up in the many emotions and beautiful melodies that are present on each and every song. Very few power riffs are heard, and in fact, bassist Ermanno Gastano and keyboardist Dario Di Pasquale dominate the musical portion of the CD, leaving guitarist Marco Trovini to keep the CD heavy enough to satisfy, but you will not be blown away here by guitar riffs.
It's literally impossible to pick favorite songs off 'Gaze into the light', as every one is absolutely superb and full of constant-existing keyboard work from Dario. The short tracks 1 "The new sunrise" and 2 "Gaze into the light", which blend together and lead to the very long track 3 "Water can cover the next" are instantly going grab your intention. Remember, I purchased this CD blindly, but can tell you I was greatly impressed after just 10 minutes into it. The slow starting "137.999 - Welcome to Zuffenhousen" is where the Brazilian influence is heard the most, as I'm reminded of some of the slower Angra and Shaaman material. The one instrumental "Tales from the deep" (which is probably the heaviest songs on the CD) brings some variety, but I find myself craving Andrea's vocals and looking forward to the final 2 songs ("Invisible horizon" and "Aphasia").
I must also mention that Zen is not at all plagued with a poor production that so many of the Italians are known for. Every instrument is clear, strong in the mix (one of the best keyboard performances I've ever heard!), and Andrea's vocals carry them all with confidence and there's a powerful presence of passion from him as well. This will go down as one of my all-time favorite CDs for sure, and I'd bet this is already a classic to those who were lucky enough to grab this way back in 1997. I know that drummer Luca Urbinati is currently in the Italian band Concept, but I'd be very curious to learn what the other band members are involved with now, as it's a tremendous shame if they're not creating wonderful music in line with 'Gaze into the light'.
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