Violent Journey Records (2012)
Certain record labels possess distinct visions of how they want to position themselves. Be it purveyors of talent regionally or sticking to particular sub-genres and finding the cream of the crop on an international scale, it’s the biggest reason to me why metal music despite its ebb and flow nature in terms of popularity lives on. Over the past couple of years Finnish metal label Violent Journey Records have assembled a killer roster of domestic acts in a variety of genres- most of which are in the heavier thrash and death mold. So when hearing about this more straightforward, traditional and progressive oriented quintet Zenith Reunion and their debut 9 song record “Utopia” I didn’t fear that the record company lost its mind venturing into unchartered waters.
Originally founding the band during the 1990’s as Loudspeaker, then Deadfish, and finally Zenith, the players of Zenith Reunion are knowledgeable in regards to the veteran bands of their scene - most notably Tarot, Stone and a relative unknown to most outside of Finland (but not within) called Zero Nine. Musically “Utopia” moves all over the map - the 7 minute plus “FF” containing some stellar, majestic riffs in the Dio-era Rainbow meets Accept wheelhouse while “Can’t Feel The Pain” contains some dual guitar harmonies and arpeggio work in line with your Symphony X or more guitar instrumental oriented offerings as the vocals pan back and forth in a lower, more sinister manner. Bassist Jukka Jokikokko (Burning Point, Stargazery) turns on his wah wah pedal skills for the opening segment of “Naked Boy”, another track bursting at the seams with interesting clean parts against stair step heavier riffs, with the harmony trade-offs between the vocals and music pure traditional bliss.
The five-piece keep the arrangements very streamlined - balancing out their musical know how and might for the benefit of each song. “Victim Of Time” possesses an Accept-like main body riff although the transitions are more stair step oriented, and the vocals of Jouni Juurikka bring me back to the “Mind Over Muscle”/ 220 Volt era. The guitarists Jukka Uusi-Illikainen and Jukka Ihme are fluid and emotional with their lead play, taking stock in guitarists like Michael Schenker, Randy Rhoads, and Ritchie Blackmore throughout who measure intricacy against each necessary note on a track by track basis.
“Utopia” will gain initial favor with the late 30’s and upward age demographic, but I do think that others interested in well played traditional fare with stellar guitarists who flash more than speed of light arpeggios during the instrumental breaks should seek this out. Very probable to hit my end of the year list in a good way.
Rating: 5.5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe