"A Prelude Into Emptiness-The Tears' Path: Chapter Alpha"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Chronos Zero from Italy make a noble attempt to come up with a massive new prog metal epic here. The results are mixed. When the band hits the right note, they are mighty indeed and fit to join the company of those they emulate. When they miss, this becomes just another tedious slab of prog metal twaddle.

A lengthy title does not a classic make, so the first thing I would have done is chop the name of the album down to size. As for the music, the best way I can describe this band is as a cross between Symphony X and Meshuggah, with a touch of the cinematic and some female-fronted metal ala Delain. The Symphony X comparisons are very strong, especially when it comes to the powerful vocals of one Jan Manenti, who does not quite equal the quality of Russell Allen...but then, who does? He isn't that far off, either, and there's a roughness to some of his vocals that adds some pleasing heft to the affair. We also get some female vocals courtesy of Claudia Saponi from Absynth Aura and she is such a strong presence here that she could almost be a member of Chronos Zero instead of a guest star. Her clean singing is OK, but not a knockout punch and I prefer Jan's muscular tones. To make things complete, there are also some hair-raising black metal screams.

This is not a record for those who like smooth, easy to get into grooves. There are a lot of changes going on and even when the guitars hammer away in staccato fashion, keyboards and synths weave some uneasy patterns over the top. And believe me, those guitars do hammer...that's where the Meshuggah comparisons come in. Lots of choppy, very heavy riffing with some syncopation and polyrhythms.
When that gets mixed with progressive keyboards and symphonic touches, you have Chronos Zero. Cuts like "Breath of Chaos" and "Shadow's Lair" are frantic screamers with odd melodies and breaks. Very powerful stuff to jam to. These guys are musically adept and the production by DGM's Simone Mularoni is perfect for this kind of music.

However, there is a feeling of homogenization with the material and even though you can really enjoy cuts like "Hearts Into Darkness", memorability is a problem. And the album ends weakly with "Sorrowful Fate", where Claudia Saponi pushes Manenti into the background and the sound comes across rather sappy and keyboard drowned. That';s also a major problem for "Sigh of Damnation", which is just too long and feels like a sponge that's been wrung out.

In the end, it's a real tossup. Lots of great parts, but maybe not enough great SONGS. But for fans of the heavier end of the prog metal spectrum, Chronos Zero could be a band to keep an eye on.