DIABLO BLVD – ZERO HOUR
Release date: 22 September 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast
- Sing from the Gallows
- Life Amounts to Nothing
- God in the Machine
- You Are All You Love
- The Song Is Over
- Like Rats
- The Future Will Do What It’s Told
- Summer Has Gone
Genuine gobsmacked amazement is a term I seldom utilise when describing my first reaction to a new album but on this occasional, it is entirely appropriate.
Almost three years after the release of Follow The Deadlights, Diablo Blvd present us with an brilliant album, nay a soaring sensation veritably busting at the seams with furious anger and all the malevolence one would presume from the demon named in the bands title. But also, a splendid refinement of their signature sound to a point where Diablo Blvd establish a genuinely unique sound and stamp that achievement of world music history. A rare gem indeed.
After releasing Follow The Deadlights the band hit the European road for a gruelling 17 months, in addition to supporting bands like Machine Head, Epica, Ace Frehley and Life of Agony across the US. The band also underwent significant changes after Dave Hubrechts left the band and Tim moved from bass to guitar. Doubtless further troubling events, both personal and as a group served as fuel for the furious inferno that is Zero Hour.
Lead singer Alex Agnew had literally stepped off a plane from Brussels to London when news of the terrorist attack reached him. His outrage is more than evident on the opening track Animal. This song opens the album in a quite unusual, almost a middle eastern feel for about 30 seconds then pounding into a thrashing metal 10 seconds, before vocals appear and snap everything back into line. Very much akin to sudden and chaotic confusion being snapped into a semblance of order. Very powerful stuff indeed.
Sing From the Gallows presents a jaded and desensitised Alex at the mic, but the track also coveys a distinct sense of urgency before Life Amounts To Nothing arrives and provides me personally with a profound realisation that I cannot shake to this very moment. I am not one to make reference to religious text but on this occasion the words Ye shall bear one another’s burdens refuses to leave my every thought and makes me realise my conscious referencing of Descent Into Hell, the novel by Charles Williams. Amounts To Nothing is an incredible track in its own right but to me, and maybe I think waaaay too much, but combined with the opening 2 songs, I’m reminded distinctly of the fact that in Decent Into Hell, the concept of hell turns out to be nothing more than a refusal to see things as they really are. A subsequent conversation with Alex reveals that Amounts To Nothing is in fact and expression of his negative feelings towards religious fanaticism. Make of that what you will but I found the first three tracks alone to be profoundly powerful, both musically and lyrically.
I must pause to reflect on the superb cover art by Hamburg-based artist and designer Hedi Xandt. When you consider that this albums content is as much a Zero Hour for the self as for our species, the question of what comes next creeps into view with ill-deserved confidence. Perhaps when we have destroyed our current form, our next evolutionary manifestation will be something as twisted and malformed as that represented. I am pleased to see that our metamorphosis has not affected from the neck down.
I will try to resist the temptation to concentrate too much further on the subject matter rather than the sensational music itself, save to say that it is very evident the supremely talented Jay Ruston and Paul Logus, obviously understood the Diablo Blvd direction immediately and intimately.
The individual performers have produced a stellar work and despite the bar being set so very high, so many times, I believe the bands finest offering to date. As Zero Hour itself approached, marked by the track 00:00, I did know what to expect. Would it be a cataclysmic disaster marked by furious metal music? Would it be simply the sounds of explosions and destruction? No. An ominous, but oddly soothing instrumental ushers in the final bells and casts aloft, the final curtain of night to complete our existence.
Like Rats opens with some sensational ‘scurrying’ guitar, and the following melodious blending creates a sensational mix of 80’s popular vocals and contemporary melodic metal. A sensational blend of past and present, filled with hooks and hope, but still conveying overtones of impending doom.
Demonise is musically phenomenal with each protagonist afforded opportunity to really shine, whilst together creating a track that ranges from an opening that would be right at home in a War Of The Worlds score, through to sensational melodic metalcore styling, but again in an arrangement that is entirely Diablo Blvd. Probably my equal favourite with God In The Machine, but up against very stiff competition.
The Future Will Do What Its Told coupled with Summer Has Gone complete this epic collection in sequenced perfection. Both presented together leave you with the eyes wide and mouth agape at what a monumentally brilliant achievement Zero Hour genuinely is. Conceptually, lyrically, vocally and musically, this album is a profound benchmark both for Diablo Blvd and contemporary music. To hear superb vocal styling of a bygone era, meet modern metal magnificence, tackling the troubling times in which we exist and simultaneously establishing a brand new signature sound, what more could humanity ask for to evolve to a higher plane of existence. Just exactly as Diablo Blvd have demonstrated.