ZP Theart has taken a brave move by leaving power metal virtuosos Dragonforce to go it alone and caused by the clichéd musical differences rationale. The danger with prominent vocalists going it alone is that the bands they form can end up with musicians who in actual fact end up as backing musicians. I Am I has enlisted, permanently I am assuming, the talents of Paul Clark Jr on drums, Jacob Ziemba on guitar and Neil Salmon on bass, the resulting debut album is far removed from what Dragonforce has done previously and brings ZP’s unique vocal proficiency to the fore. I suspect that I Am I are expecting to drag along a few Dragonforce fans to establish a fan base more or less straight away. Another quirky aspect to this release is that it will not be put out on CD, instead opting for a USB in a jewel case with all the art work and booklet. A strange way to go about things and likely to do with the rumour that major labels are going to cease CD production in the not too distant future. Whilst many of us do listen to music via compressed format, great many fans do not and I know a few who will not be happy about not being able to buy a CD. Based on a couple of people I know one has only just got used to sending an email and the other doesn’t even own a PC or have access to one.
The question of whether ZP has shot himself in the foot or taken a masterstroke in his own destiny needs to be asked I guess. As I hinted at earlier the likelihood of established ZP aficionados switching allegiances to I Am I is probably quite high, but if they want more Dragonforce material then they will be sorely disappointed, and might even feel cheated. The musical differences bears some fruit here as “Event Horizon” is closer to AOR and hard rock than power metal chest beating. The theme for this album is sublime vocalising and rousing memorable choruses, which is a good thing if the music can back it up. After digesting this album with numerous listens ZP has succeeded in making it very clear that “Event Horizon” is about his vocals. The opening track could quite easily be interpreted as his own wave good bye to Dragonforce when it is titled “This Is My Life”, though I could be erroneous here. The tune has a symphonic feel with a slow power metal double kick that leads into the verse. The soaring harmonies are reminiscent of acts like Sonata Arctica, Hammerfall, Unisonic and whoever else you care to name, but I would also add that the AOR stance has touches of Bon Jovi, Journey, Foreigner and even Asia embedded in the choral arrangements which are tremendously written.
“Silent Genocide” is pure power rock with anthem driven riffs being supplemented by Euro influenced vocal harmonies. The immense solo that starts “Stay A While” reminds you that this is a metal album and similar to the likes of Edguy. I particularly enjoyed “Cross The Line” which has a lovely lead to begin with before shifting into double kick, with the lead continuing and strongly hinting at a Firewind influence to me. The tune develops into radio friendly heavy rock and with an infectious chorus this could be the single. It hugely displays ZP’s fine vocal harmony aptitude which you’d be hard pressed to find someone to match it on CD, sorry, on USB. It will be interesting to see how the vocals are handled in the live forum as there seems to have been a split on various forums about whether he can hack it live or not. Personally in Dragonforce I always felt his vocals were lost in Dragonforce’s guitar wizardry and speed.
Longest tune and probably the heaviest is “Kiss Of Judas” (no it isn’t a Stratovarius cover), has a much more forceful guitar riff, bordering groove metal. The double bass injections are slow, pronounced and rhythmic to match the riff. The song also has a more sinister and dark approach with the vocals taking a notch down in tone. This song stands alone on the album with its slow but deliberate and doleful melody. The lead solo is packed with emotion and lingering notes. Following this is a much more upbeat song, “Dust To Dust”, that is closer to traditional power metal but the speed is firmly kept in the middle lane, with only the chorus taking you into overtaking mode.
Groove metal very similar to Falconer returns on “Wasted Wonders” which also has a slight modification in vocal style which is inevitable with it being ZP’s band so to speak. It is also nice to hear an album that has been thought about in terms of how the songs flow from one to the other. The blend of slower and more upbeat material is excellent and whilst I didn’t like all the songs on “Event Horizon” it is sure to please ZP followers so long as they don’t expect Dragonforce MkII. I seriously recommend this album if you are into Edguy, Sonata Arctica, Blind Guardian (slower stuff), Falconer, and any number of other Euro power metal bands, but I’d also recommend this to you if you like bands like Europe, Journey, Foreigner, Asia etc, though it is heavier than those acts.
8/10 (Martin Harris)