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Chronos Zero - "Hollowlands" (CD)

Chronos Zero - "Hollowlands" CD cover image

"Hollowlands" track listing:

1. The Compression of Time
2. Fracture
3. Shattered
4. On the Tears of Path
5. Who Are You? (A Shape of Nothingness)
6. Who Am I? (Overcame by Blackwater Rain)
7. Ruins of the Memories of Fear
8. Phalanx of Madness
9. Oblivion, Pt. 1 - The Underworld
10. Oblivion, Pt. 2 - The Trial of Maat
11. Oblivion, Pt. 3 - The Harp
12. The Fall of the Balance
13. Near the Nightmare
14. From Chaos to Chaos

Reviewed by on January 20, 2016

"['Hollowlands' sounds as] if Symphony X, Scar Symmetry, Epica and Meshuggah had a kinky four way."

When I first started listening to “Hollowlands – The Tears Path: Chapter One,” the new album from Italy’s Chronos Zero, my thought was “I really hope Per Nilsson and Scar Symmetry get ‘The Singularity’ pts 2-3 out quick before the world has more ‘modern metal’ clones.” While the seven piece from Cesena does present many sonic snippets reminiscent of the world’s best modern metal act, that initial thought might have been a little too harsh. In fact, “Hollowlands” has a lot more going on here than initially meets the ear. If the band will forgive the dreaded band comparisons (necessary to convey style to a reader), it would be as if Symphony X, Scar Symmetry, Epica and Meshuggah had a kinky four way.

Let’s get the sound right out of the way: “Simone Mularoni.” Wait, you haven’t heard? Right…well, those two words are synonymous with “absolutely perfect.” It all sounds ridiculously polished and fantastic….blah, blah.

Chronos Zero has bought into the latest modern metal craze – three vocalists and a mix of clean/harsh male vocals with that of a strong female, not unlike Amaranthe but sans the glitz. As drab as that may sound… if I told you that one sounded distinctly like Russell Allen, the other like a slightly higher pitched Mark Jansen and the third like Anna Murphy’s sister – would that change your opinion? Jan Maneti (Love.Might.Kill), Manuel Guerrieri (Crawling Chaos) and Margherita Leardini might just be the best trio tandem I’ve heard so far.

While your author tends to gravitate to the tracks that sound a bit more linear and less chugging, there is plenty of material on “Hollowlands” to go around for the metalhead seeking music transcending limitations. The best part of the album comes in the stunningly beautiful “On the Tears Path,” where Leardini shows her quality and “Who Am I?” – which if I hadn’t known any better – could fool just about anyone into believing it was a lost track from Symphony X’s “Iconoclast.” That might garner a ton of shit slinging from the Russell Allen fanclub, but one listen will change that opinion.

On the other hand, tracks like “Shattered” and “Oblivion, Pt. 2: The Trial of Maat” are a bit too chuggy for my palate, though the latter has some seriously catchy modern day Symphony X qualities. I do find it somewhat difficult to keep up with the ultra-prog nature of that style, preferring when the band mixes in more melodious lines as in “Phalanx of Madness” or “Ruins of the Memories of Fear.” Still, there is a bit too much Meshuggah going on. When tracks rely heavier on Giuseppe Rinaldi and Enrico Zavatta’s stunning piano/keyboard work (check out “Near the Nightmare” or “From Chaos to Chaos”) to drive the melody, the formula really works perfectly.

“Hollowlands” is most certainly a step up from the band’s debut “A Prelude Into Emptiness – The Tears Path: Chapter Alpha,” especially with the additions of vocalists Manuel Guerrieri and Margherita Leardini and keyboardist Giuseppe Rinaldi. In many ways this is a rebirth of Chronos Zero, one that thrusts the band right into the modern metal world spotlight. Adding elements of “Iconoclast” Symphony X and haunting keyboard overtones (a la Epica), they are prepared for a rewarding future.

Highs: New vocalists Manuel Guerrieri and Margherita Leardini shine, material presents modern metal with melodious thunder.

Lows: Some of the material chugs and sputters a bit too much.

Bottom line: Chronos Zero takes a leap forward with "Hollowlands."

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)