Friday, March 4, 2016

Local Love: Review of Zephaniah's Reforged

Though Reforged is Zephaniah's first album since their 2008 debut, it stays close to the power/thrash metal template that that album had established. The songs are as melodic as they are speedy, the structures avoid convention, and the musicianship provides a great deal of energy and technicality. However, the time between releases has resulted in a more mature effort as the songs are longer, the tone gets darker, and the lyrics seem to take themselves a smidge more seriously.

But while the band members put in stellar performances and every instrument is frequently able to be heard, the production does feel a bit off balance. Cody Johns' nonstop drum attacks provide plenty of power but also feel rather cluttered at times. Logan Detwiler's vocals are more confident than before but he still seems to finding his footing in the grand scheme of thing. Fortunately, the guitar harmonies are the subject of many shining moments and bassist Ian Bender's bass constantly demands attention at a rate not seen in power metal since classic Helloween.

The songwriting also makes up for any flaws in the presentation. After two solid opening tracks, things get interesting as a trilogy of songs based on the Mad Max series comes blazing through. "Mad Max" and "Road Warriors" offer the album's most focal points of thrash influence while "Thunderdome" is a mid-tempo fight song complete with infectious battle chants, dark rhythms, and a couple appropriate samples. From there, "Quest For The Holy Crown" is a righteous nine minute track and "Battle Hymn for the Victorious" fades out on an epic Manowar inspired refrain.

Overall, Zephaniah's sophomore effort makes up for the time since its predecessor by outdoing it in just about every way. While the production feels jumbled, the musicianship and songwriting are impressive enough to make them a noteworthy entry to the modern American power metal scene. Here's hoping their third album doesn't take as long and also manages to shove a tune about FUry Road somewhere in time...

"Mad Max"
"Road Warrior"
"Battle Hymn of the Victorious"

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